Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

'He Said, She Said' Stirs Controversy at Southern University's New Orleans Campus

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

'He Said, She Said' Stirs Controversy at Southern University's New Orleans Campus

Article excerpt

NOTEWORTHY NEWS: `He Said, She Said' Stirs Controversy At Southern University's New Orleans Campus

Dr. Joseph Bouie, chancellor of Southern University at New Orleans, claims he's just asserting his right to assemble his own management team by trying to fire the wife of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., and three other female administrators.

But SUNO Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Andrea Jefferson claims Bouie is retaliating against her for blowing the whistle on several questionable practices in his administration.

"I do believe in my heart that the chancellor is trying to removes me because I have uncovered wrongdoing on this campus," Jefferson says. She says she has confronted Bouie with problems regarding sexual harassment and gender discrimination, but refused to provide details.

But a source close to the controversy, speaking on condition of anonymity, says one of the allegations raised by Andrea Jefferson involves a pornographic e-mail that allegedly was sent from the chancellor's office.

While the e-mail itself did not originate from the chancellor's computer, Andrea Jefferson had reportedly complained about Bouie's failure to take appropriate action after she called it to his attention.

In addition, the source says a female employee in the chancellor's office has filed a sexual harassment complaint against Bouie himself, alleging that he has repeatedly made unwelcome "romantic gestures" toward her. To document her case, the woman has reportedly turned over one of the expensive gifts Bouie allegedly gave her, along with a secretly taped conversation she had with the chancellor in September. Louisiana law allows the secret taping of a conversation as long as it is done by a participant.

According to the source, Jefferson had also complained to Bouie that two SUNO employees had improperly charged the New Orleans public school system for services that they were supposed to be performing as part of their university duties. Jefferson alleged that each of the two alleged "double dippers" received $5,000 to which they should not have been entitled.

Bouie has repeatedly declined comment about those allegations. When asked at one point if he was under attack, Bouie responded: "Not by the board."

Bouie also has remained tight-lipped on his reasons for wanting to fire the four women.

"They're at-will employees who serve at the pleasure of the chancellor -- I don't have to give a reason," Bouie says.

Meanwhile, SUNO faculty leaders who support Bouie say they can't believe he would engage in sexual harassment.

"Joe's a good-looking guy, and we worked together for almost 20 years at the School of Social Work, which is mostly women -- if he had been prone to that type of behavior, we should have seen it before now," says SUNO faculty member Bill Stewart.

As faculty senate president three years ago, Stewart led a protest when Andrea Jefferson was hired by former SUNO Chancellor Gerald Peoples for the $75,000 a year job.

At the time, she was sitting on the Southern University Board of Supervisors, and took the job after the Louisiana Board of Ethics rendered an opinion blessing the move.

Jefferson repeatedly has denied that her husband pulled any political strings on her behalf.

"I'm not concerned because even if the board votes to dismiss me, I can go knowing that I have done a good job -- and I will not be a part of the character assassination that's been going on around this place," Andrea Jefferson said in a recent interview. …

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