State Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell said Thursday he’s hurt that a highly regarded instructor on LSU’s Shreveport campus may have lost his job for speaking in favor of a failed merger between the school and Louisiana Tech University.
Purcell was talking about Wayne Hogue, a management instructor at LSU-S since 2003 who was voted by students “Professor of the Year” the past three years.
Hogue, said he was informed weeks ago that his contract ending June 30, 2013, would not be renewed. He called it “the clearest case of retaliation I’ve ever even heard of.”
Purcell, the man in charge of higher education’s coordination and policymaking, called Hogue’s dismissal “a personnel issue” before elaborating further.
“I was an advocate for the merger, so it does hurt me that others who spoke what they felt were adversely impacted,” Purcell said.
LSU System President William Jenkins denied that Hogue was retaliated against, calling it instead “an administrative decision” and referring further questions to LSU-S Chancellor Paul Sisson.
“It would be unfair for me to comment on something I don’t have full knowledge of, but this was an administrative decision, not a retaliation,” Jenkins said.
Hogue, meanwhile, maintains that it was his outspoken support of a Board of Regents recommendation for Louisiana Tech to absorb LSU-S.
That recommendation from the state’s top higher education board came after months of study from the Eva Klein & Associates consulting firm and widespread support from the Shreveport and Bossier City business communities.
The move was intended to expand many of Louisiana Tech’s academic program offerings into the Shreveport community. The proposed consolidation would mean Louisiana Tech would have full campuses in Ruston and Shreveport.
The merger plan ultimately failed during the legislative session when its sponsor realized the bill didn’t have enough support to move forward.
Despite its failure, Hogue said the merger would have brought increased degree offerings to northwest Louisiana, filling a void the LSU System has neglected for decades.
“First of all, I love LSU-S; I just love northwest Louisiana more,” Hogue said. “The merger was the right thing for northwest Louisiana higher education. We’ve given LSU 40 years to do something and they haven’t. LSU-S is the exact university the LSU System wants it to be. They have a toehold in the market without cannibalizing students from the flagship in Baton Rouge.”
Hogue called the atmosphere surrounding the debate “a pretty rough, caustic environment” where faculty and administrators in favor of the merger were encouraged to stay quiet.
Hogue said faculty were scared of College of Education Dean David Gustavson, who frequently sent out emails opposing the merger.
Gustavson, this week, declined to respond to Hogue.
“This is a dead issue as far as I’m concerned,” Gustavson said.
Sisson, who declined an interview request made through the school’s public relations office, released an email statement on the issue.
“Personnel decisions are often difficult and painful to make, and LSU-S wishes the best for all concerned. That is the primary reason for our policy of providing as much forewarning as possible, which is one year in these cases. Decisions are always made on the basis of such factors as campus budgets, overall goals and objectives, performance and related issues.”