‘He Said, She Said’ Stirs Controversy
At Southern University’s New Orleans Campus
By Scott Dyer
BATON ROUGE, La.
Dr. Joseph Bouie, chancellor of Southern University at New Orleans, claims he’s just asserting his right to assemble his own management team by trying to fire the wife of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., and three other female administrators.
But SUNO Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr.Andrea Jefferson claims Bouie is retaliating against her for blowing the whistle on several questionable practices in his administration.
“I do believe in my heart that the chancellor is trying to remove me because I have uncovered wrongdoing on this campus,” Jefferson says. She says she has confronted Bouie with problems regarding sexual harassment and gender discrimination, but refused to provide details.
But a source close to the controversy, speaking on condition of anonymity, says one of the allegations raised by Andrea Jefferson involves a pornographic e-mail that allegedly was sent from the chancellor’s office.
While the e-mail itself did not originate from the chancellor’s computer, Andrea Jefferson had reportedly complained about Bouie’s failure to take appropriate action after she called it to his attention.
In addition, the source says a female employee in the chancellor’s office has filed a sexual harassment complaint against Bouie himself, alleging that he has repeatedly made unwelcome “romantic gestures” toward her. To document her case, the woman has reportedly turned over one of the expensive gifts Bouie allegedly gave her, along with a secretly taped conversation she had with the chancellor in September. Louisiana law allows the secret taping of a conversation as long as it is done by a participant.
According to the source, Jefferson had also complained to Bouie that two SUNO employees had improperly charged the New Orleans public school system for services that they were supposed to be performing as part of their university duties. Jefferson alleged that each of the two alleged “double dippers” received $5,000 to which they should not have been entitled.
Bouie has repeatedly declined comment about those allegations.
When asked at one point if he was under attack, Bouie responded: “Not by the board.”
Bouie also has remained tight-lipped on his reasons for wanting to fire the four women.
“They’re at-will employees who serve at the pleasure of the chancellor — I don’t have to give a reason,” Bouie says.
Meanwhile, SUNO faculty leaders who support Bouie say they can’t believe he would engage in sexual harassment.
“Joe’s a good-looking guy, and we worked together for almost 20 years at the School of Social Work, which is mostly women — if he had been prone to that type of behavior, we should have seen it before now,” says SUNO faculty member Bill Stewart.
As faculty senate president three years ago, Stewart led a protest when Andrea Jefferson was hired by former SUNO Chancellor Gerald Peoples for the $75,000 a year job.
At the time, she was sitting on the Southern University Board of Supervisors, and took the job after the Louisiana Board of Ethics rendered an opinion blessing the move.
Jefferson repeatedly has denied that her husband pulled any political strings on her behalf.
“I’m not concerned because even if the board votes to dismiss me, I can go knowing that I have done a good job — and I will not be a part of the character assassination that’s been going on around this place,” Andrea Jefferson said in a recent interview.
Stewart pointed out that Andrea Jefferson’s only academic experience at the college level was a brief stint as a Xavier University lecturer and a job with Grambling State University in which she coordinated an off-campus doctoral education program for a handful of students.
Stewart says her performance as vice chancellor for academic affairs has been less than stellar.
“To the extent possible, she’s done almost nothing since taking the job,” Stewart says.
Andrea Jefferson has been quick to point out that she has plenty of administrative experience, serving previously at SUNO as director of financial aid and vice chancellor for student affairs.
But Stewart says she had no real experience as an academic administrator, and never served as a department head. Another faculty member who supports Bouie, Shirley Salem, says she is convinced political factors are interfering with the chancellor’s efforts to oust Andrea Jefferson and the other three administrators.
“I wish the politicians would stay out of internal university affairs — I think it’s inappropriate, even in Louisiana,” says Salem, who teaches criminal justice.
In late October, Salem, Stewart and other faculty members who support Bouie made an eight-hour drive to Shreveport where the Southern University Board of Supervisors listened to appeals filed by Andrea Jefferson and the other three administrators over their termination.
The other three administrators targeted by Bouie for termination are college of education Dean Denise Charbonnet; associate education Dean Louise Kaltenbaugh; and Karen Martin, who runs evening and weekend programs at SUNO.
The appeals took place in executive session, lasted nearly six hours, and ended with the board taking no action.
Southern University System President Leon Tarver acknowledged that Bouie has a right to terminate high-ranking administrators on his campus without cause, but also noted that Andrea Jefferson and the other three administrators have rights as well.
Tarver says Southern University policy gives displaced administrators the right to a classroom job depending on their length of service, even if they are not tenured.
“If someone’s been here for two years (as an administrator), then they are granted one year (in a teaching job),” Tarver says. “If they’ve worked one year as an administrator, then they are entitled to one semester in a faculty-related post.”
Tarver says Bouie attempted to terminate the four administrators outright, but is now in the process of recommending reassignments for them to comply with the policy.
“We respect the right of a chancellor to make a determination about the people to serve on his team on the campus, but certain processes have to be followed,” Tarver says.
“If, in fact, we find that the process was not followed, or was flawed in any way or that something is missing, then we require the chancellor to provide that information or an appropriate response,” Tarver says.
Tarver says he’s hoping to handle the four appeals without board action, noting that he is in the process of investigating the appeals and Bouie’s responses.
“Anything that anybody says in their defense (during the appeal) is something that needs to be examined very carefully,” Tarver says.
But Tarver declined comment on any allegations against Bouie.
“When it comes to personnel actions that are confidential, we don’t get into the details of such actions,” Tarver says.
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com