Ivor van Heerden, former deputy director of LSU Hurricane Center, recently wrote to Levees.org from Urbanna, Virginia that he will return home in early December to begin preparing for trial.
Van Heerden is suing LSU for wrongful termination. The outspoken professor claimed LSU retaliated against him for making statements critical of the Army Corps of Engineers after the agency’s levee system failed in New Orleans during Katrina.
Van Heerden alleged that he was fired because his criticism of the Army Corps put LSU’s chances of getting federal funding in jeopardy. LSU receives large federal grants from the Corps. Federal Judge James Brady determined that Dr. van Heerden’s claim has merit.
Trial will begin on the 19th of February in Baton Rouge Federal Court.
Van Heerden explained that he is looking forward to telling the general public – and especially those who suffered so much during Katrina – just how much their flagship university, LSU, tried to stop the levee investigation he led and continuously harassed him right up to the day he was fired.
In an email to the author, Van Heerden wrote, “LSU has also said that between then and now they will try again to get the judge to change his rulings which are now in my favor. We expect a hard dirty fight when we get to court. Of course, LSU seems not to care about any bad publicity that results, rather they want to show the staff they need to tow the company line or else.”
This past June, an academic watchdog group voted to place LSU on academic censure for mistreatment of Dr.van Heerden. A 30-page report issued by the American Association of University Professors, AAUP, revealed that LSU had a ‘prevailing position’ on the cause of the flooding, and that Dr. van Heerden’s research and public stance ran contrary to that position.
LSU’s apparent prevailing position – that the flooding was a natural disaster – was in direct conflict with the findings of the investigation, called Team Louisiana, that Dr. van Heerden was leading with funding from the Louisiana State Department of Transportation.
Said Van Heerden, “Universities should support academic freedom, rather than argue in federal court, as LSU has done to date, that there is no such thing as academic freedom.”