**Editor’s note – This post was written by Rondall Reynoso and appeared first at Faith on View.
It has been a long time since I wrote about Louisiana College. It has been just over a year and a half. I am writing today because there are developments that essentially put an end to a long and terrible story. For those who don’t know the saga you can find out more than you ever wanted to know here: The Louisiana College Story.
The far too short recap is that Joe Aguillard was the President of Louisiana College for nine years. He was spiritually and emotionally abusive, not to mention incompetent and he almost single-handedly ruined the college. I say almost because there were plenty of sycophants eager to gain power through his favor. He also had the favor of the corrupt majority of the Board of Trustees. That is, until he did the unthinkable. No the unthinkable wasn’t covering up drugs and molestation, or forging documents, or denying that college employees have constitutional rights, or losing the largest donor in college history, or violating college policies, or getting the college into trouble with its accrediting agency, orintimidating students. He insulted the son of Louisiana Baptist ConventionExecutive Director David Hankins. Finally, after almost a decade of academic terror Joe Aguillard was removed from the presidency. But, he got golden parachute- a year leave at full presidential pay and then a tenured faculty position which blunted any satisfaction that those hurt by Aguillard may have felt.
It is hard for many who never spent time at LC to realize how bad it was. Maybe the best illustration I have is that while recruiting me for a position at a different University the Vice President for Academic Affairs who hired me at LC apologized to me for hiring me! It took a while for that to sink in. The guy who hired me and was proud of bringing me to his campus later apologized for it. And, this was before Aguillard even set his eyes on getting rid of me. The environment was just toxic.
So, why write about Louisiana College again now? It started with an article published by the local newspaper, the TownTalk, “Sources: Former LC president being removed from faculty.” That caused me to check with some of my sources and see if I could find out more details. A former Vice President for Academic Affairs had told me once that Aguillard was so vindictive that if he was ever removed from office that he would work behind the scenes to ruin the next president. I have certainly seen hisvindictiveness personally; so, I wondered if that was what happened.
There apparently was also a plot by Aguillard and former Board of Trustees Chairman Tommy French to overthrow the new president
After checking with sources, I found out that Aguillard had been in possession of a college-owned laptop and on that laptop were files that Aguillard was trying to use to undermine the new President. There apparently was also a plot by Aguillard and former Board of Trustees Chairman Tommy French to overthrow the new president, Rick Brewer. A private investigator was hired by Brewer to flesh some of this out- an irony since Aguillard was so fond of using private investigators himself. Aguillard was then notified that he was to be terminated. Aguillard appealed to both the Faculty Council and the Board of Trustees. Both entities denied his appeal. The last event was Aguillard and his lawyer meeting with the President of the college and college legal team for 10 hours to try to reach a settlement before Aguillard sued the college. Another irony is that Aguillard was at some point in the process locked out of his office and escorted off the campus by security. Aguillard was also very fond of these tactics when he was president.
After all this time it seems that some justice is coming around on the campus of LC. This does little to mend the damage that Aguillard did to the lives and careers of faculty, administrators, and students while he was at LC. I certainly have not rebounded from the damage he did to me and my family. My still outstanding lawyer bill vouches for that as does my lack of a full-time teaching position. It is hard to get past a Google search that says you sued Louisiana College…even if that lawsuit was only to obtain a restraining order against the college to prevent wrongful termination.
This news about Aguillard has elicited strong emotional responses. For me, it has brought back a lot of hurt and pain. It has been a hard few years. When things went to pot at LC I had another teaching position lined up but all indications are that Aguillard found out what school I had interviewed with and contacted them. As a result, what had been promised verbally by the college was never put on paper. That was my last job search without a digital record of my problems at LC. Another former faculty member I know broke down in tears over this lastest news in large part because it brought to mind the abuse she had endured at the hands of Aguillard and his cronies. A former Vice President (no not one of the ones that Aguillard targeted and got rid of) told me today that with the new he had tears of joy.
And then Louisiana College…
The same VPAA who warned me that Aguillard would try to vindictively ruin the next president also told me that if the Board of Trustees got rid of Aguillard they would replace him with someone of the same mold. I’ve always remembered that and thought about it a lot when Aguillard was being pushed out of the presidency. It seemed almost prophetic because it wasn’t any of Aguillard’s professional, spiritual, or moral failings that finally did him in. It was a lack of loyalty to Executive Director David Hankins. That isn’t exactly a mandate for a new president to do right.
I’ve spoken to some who have met Rick Brewer who were impressed with him. Faculty members have told me the environment on campus is much better (how could it not be?). But, when Aguillard was removed from the presidency he was also honored by the college and respected enough in the LBC for a church to make him their pastor. One former Trustee calls the whole lot a “cult” and when talking to a former Vice President (no not Quarles or Johnson), this Vice President called the LBC a whitewashed tomb. My point is simply that there are still deep spiritual issues in the LBC that have only been covered and not addressed.
My point is simply that there are still deep spiritual issues in the LBC that they have only covered and not addressed.
Several people have told me that Brewer is very much in the mold of Aguillard. He is just smarter and does it better. I don’t know if that is true or not. I will say that when Brewer was named President I reached out to him and told him that there was a lot of excitement about his being named President. We exchanged several cordial e-mails. In one of our last emails I asked:
Do you think there is a chance that the institution will demonstrate contrition appropriate with its offenses. Or, is it more likely that everything will simply move forward and hope that people don’t hold a “Christian” institution to Christian mores?
Brewer simply responded:
Have you forgiven the parties who contributed to your offenses? Have you confronted these individuals according to Scripture and sought restoration?
On the one had this response doesn’t seem like a big deal. Of course as Christians we should forgive and seek restoration with others. The problem though is that this is classic victim blaming. This position essentailly claims that it isn’t the responsibility of those who cause the damage to show contrition it is the responsibility of those who are harmed to forgive. It isn’t the fault of the powerful but the weak. I responded:
I have reconciled with many from my ordeal at LC. I have not reconciled with Aguillard. I strive to love him. Scripture is clear that we are to love even those who spitefully use us. But, without contrition there can be no reconciliation.
What concerns me is I have often seen this line of reasoning to deflect responsibility from the abusing party to the abused. It is important for you to realize that you are now the president of an institution that has a decade long history of systemic abuse and hurt. There is a great deal of well-earned distrust out there. While Aguillard was the greatest cause and the face of the evil perpetrated by LC, it goes deeper than him. Further, since the board took actions to protect him when they removed him from office and for years previously there is clear institutional culpability.
None of this is your fault but it is the situation into which you stepped. For LC and the community to heal, I believe that LC needs to in some way demonstrate contrition. The institution will never be healthy while it continues to deflect responsibility for the harm it caused.
I have still seen no apologies from Louisiana College. Three years ago, I wrote the article “Louisiana College…Moving Forward” where I outlined what Louisiana College needed to do to restore health and move forward. Some of it LC has done and some it hasn’t. But, steps two and three were “Publicly Admit Wrong” and “Apologize.” Those have not been done and I do not expect them to be done. When I saw the victim blaming from the new president rather than an attempt to seek restitution I was ready to move on. I had done all I could. That is still true. I do not plan to blog more about Louisiana College. It is what it is. But, it is not what it could have been.
[Rondall Reynoso – Faith on View]