EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Ivor van Heerden on Settlement with LSU

Ivor van Heerden

Today, Levees.org obtained an exclusive interview with Ivor van Heerden to discuss more details of his whistleblower lawsuit against LSU.

Initially, our interview was arranged in response to the remarkable story in the Sunday February 17th edition of the Baton Rouge Advocate about emails traded between members of the Louisiana Governor’s office and LSU officials three weeks after Katrina.

The emails revealed an apparent early plan to muzzle Dr. Ivor van Heerden when he rightly blamed the Army Corps of Engineers for most of the New Orleans area flooding during Katrina. Van Heerden alleged that LSU and members of the Governors’ office wanted to gag him, or worse, because they were worried his statements would put federal funding in jeopardy.

LSU receives large federal grants from the Army Corps.

But last night, we also learned that LSU and a separate state agency paid the former coastal researcher a settlement check in the amount $435,000 provided by both LSU and the Office of Risk Management.

LEVEES.ORG: Will any more details – in addition to the incriminating emails unveiled last week in The Advocate, be forthcoming regarding unsavory behavior at LSU?

VAN HEERDEN: I don’t believe any more are coming. I am now in the process of writing a book, and there will be an entire chapter devoted to the LSU lawsuit. But I believe Bill Lodge with The Advocate is finished reporting on the subject.

LEVEES.ORG: Do you consider the settlement a victory?

VAN HEERDEN: This is definitely a victory. LSU was taught a lesson. LSU has learned never to ignore the principles of academic freedom again.

LEVEES.ORG: If you could do it all over again, would you have done anything differently?

VAN HEERDEN: Perhaps I would have been less trusting of a few of the academics on campus. Other than that, no. What we did it was right, and the way we did was right. And I think we did a very good job.

LEVEES.ORG Do you have any regrets?

VAN HEERDEN: No. I, from the very beginning, knew that this (speaking out against the Army Corps) could cost me my job. But the truth was so important to so many people that we stepped up to plate, and spoke out and told the truth. I have no regrets.

LEVEES.ORG: Do you think LSU is different from other flagship universities? In other words, is it the same elsewhere except LSU made the mistake of putting incriminating statements in emails?

VAN HEERDEN: No, I think that LSU stands out alone as a flagship university that acted so rashly. For example, (referencing the AAUP’s chastising of LSU) you don’t see other flagship universities being censured.

LEVEES.ORG: Are you and your wife happy with the terms?

VAN HEERDEN: We’re happy to extent it’s over, and we can get on with our lives. This was always about academic freedom, not about the money. The money only enables us to pay our attorney and other major expenses, and have a little left over.

LEVEES.ORG: I understand you are leaving for South Africa today. What brings you back to your original home country?

VAN HEERDEN: My sister has leukemia and hasn’t responded well to treatment. I am leaving to spend some time with her. She is scheduled for a bone marrow transplant in one week.

LEVEES.ORG Is there anything you would like to say to our supporters?

VAN HEERDEN: I would like to thank each of you very sincerely from the bottom of my heart for your support, your kind words, for the demonstration, and for the letters to LSU and the Governor. These are part of the good memories.

And in closing, I want to remind the citizens of New Orleans that they need to be very diligent in making sure the corps is up front with what it is doing. And they need to make sure that the corps is honestly articulating the level of safety they claim New Orleans residents are getting.

LEVEES.ORG: When LSU closed its Hurricane Center and non-renewed your contract, the residents here lost their only independent voice in Louisiana. It’s now up to all of us to carry on your work. We hope we can continue your level of vigilance. Thank you Dr. Van Heerden. Take care, and we wish you, your sister, and your family well.

13 responses to “EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Ivor van Heerden on Settlement with LSU”

  1. Ralph Saxton says:

    Thanks, Ivor.

  2. KC King says:

    Yes, the bad actors of Katrina remain bad actors to this day. The USACE still ignores the recommendations of the IPET to take a systems-based approach. Following closely in their footsteps is BP who failed and continues to fail 32432gto hold safety paramount.

    We who are battling the entrenched forces of ethical hazards and disintegrity consider you an inspiration and beacon.

    And we thank you, KC King

  3. Laura Olson says:

    Dear Dr. van Heerden,

    So many of us think you are a hero. Thank you for your service to Louisiana. We hope the wounds of being so ill-treated heal and the many levels of trauma that came with Katrina will be mourned and gotten over and prove fertile ground for another world-class book that all of us will be waiting to consume. God Speed on your Travels and Best Wishes for your Sister.

  4. Linda Reed Hill says:

    Thank you Dr. VanHeerden and Gob Bless and God Speed! Thank you for all you did for the citizens of New Orleans!

  5. Y.L. Blanke says:

    Many thanks to you Dr. Ivor van Heerden. It is with great pleasure that I count myself among your supporters. You offer hope in dark times. Imagine if people with principles were everywhere. I believe they may be, they’re just quiet. Thanks for being loud, standing strong against wrong. You offer optimism that the meek may find their voice.
    Very best wishes to you, your wife and family and especially your sister who is lucky to have a brother like you.

  6. Andy Brott says:

    Thank you Dr.VanHeerden for all-
    I look forward to purchasing your book-
    Best from Freret Street,

  7. Gerri Malone says:

    Thank you for speaking out!!! Integrity can’t be bought!!! Good luck in your future endeavors and hope all goes well for your sister. God Bless!!!

  8. Stephanie Toller Negrete says:

    Dr. van Heerden –
    Thank you for standing up for academic freedom and for what is right.
    You are a good soul.
    Best to you and your family.
    Kindest regards,
    A supporter from California

  9. Danielle Barbara says:

    God bless you and your family. Thanks for having the courage to stand up for what is right. I lost my beautiful cousin who lived by a break in the levee. She would not evacuate because she believed the levees would protect her. She said that she never flooded before. You stuck your neck out despite the risks and the consequences. We need more people like YOU!!!

  10. Jane Johnson says:

    It takes an extraordinarily brave person to speak truth to power with full knowledge that one’s job is very likely at stake. Thank you for your courage.

  11. Thanks for courageous whistleblower Dr. Van Heerden and his fine Attorney Jill Craft for making the community safer.

  12. Pete McKingley says:

    I just watched The Big Uneasy and googled Heerden’s name. Delighted that he received a reasonable settlement and that LSU has been exposed for the cruel and stupid idiots they are. The man is a hero; now can some big Hollywood studio option this story and pay Heerden a packet for doing so.

  13. […] However, Van Heerden doesn’t regret anything. “I’ve learned that for me personally, there’s a great satisfaction in standing by my principles, even if it costs me my job,” he says. “When I shave in the morning, I can look myself in the eye and be quite proud of whom I’m looking at.” […]

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