Board votes to terminate professor laid off in May 2012

Southern University’s policymakers on Friday upheld the termination of a physics professor who got his pink slip from the university last summer but kept working, unbeknownst to administrators, while he appealed his firing.

The Board of Supervisor’s decision not to consider the professor’s appeal presumably puts an end to Dong Sheng Guo’s career at Southern’s Baton Rouge campus.

Guo had argued that Southern sent his termination letter to his Baton Rouge address last summer while he was doing university-sanctioned work in China. He further claimed that he was not given the proper chance to appeal his termination when he returned. The university denies his claims.

It is unclear if Guo, who has hired an attorney to help him get his job back, plans to continue to fight for his job in court. He did not attend Southern’s board meeting in Shreveport on Friday and could not be reached for comment.

The board’s near-unanimous vote not to hear Guo’s appeal came despite objections from board member Tony Clayton and Baton Rouge Faculty Senate President Thomas Miller.

Both argued that Guo’s firing was mishandled and should be overturned.

“The notice was not proper,” Clayton said. “You can’t deprive a person of his property, in this case, his job, without proper notice and we did not do that. Leaving a letter at his house is not enough.”

Southern fired Guo in May 2012 during a period of financial emergency, known as exigency, that makes it easier for schools to downsize staff and consolidate programs.

Under the terms of exigency, fired employees have the right to appeal their termination to a school’s administration, the university president and, finally, to the university board.

Miller argued that a termination letter should reach the employee 30 days before the firing goes into effect. Guo’s termination letter did not reach the professor’s house until June 1, 2012, Miller said, meaning that the official firing date would have been July 1, 2012 — one day after the exigency period ended.

But neither argument swayed the board.

Board attorney Tracie Woods argued that an investigation found that Southern followed protocol and that Guo was afforded his right to appeal.

Reaction to Guo’s case was subdued Friday in contrast to last month when several expressed shock and bewilderment that Guo was fired during the 2012 summer but returned to campus that fall and taught a full load of courses, unbeknownst to Southern’s campus leaders.

At the end of that semester, Guo went to Southern’s Human Resources Department and complained that he hadn’t been getting paid. The university subsequently paid him $20,000 for his services.

One semester later, during the spring of 2013, Guo again returned to campus and taught more classes, without higher ups knowing.

Woods explained the foul-up as an administrative oversight. Guo was removed from the university’s payroll system but not from the computerized faculty system known as Banner, she said.

Woods recommended that Guo be paid as an adjunct professor for his spring 2013 work.