The pressure on embattled Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard is stepping up a notch. 10 members of the Board of Trustees have signed what they call an open letter to Baptists.
They stop short of calling for him to resign. They’re asking members of the Louisiana Baptist convention churches to hold him accountable. They list 14 grievances ranging from ignored requests for information to a lack of leadership from the Board of Trustees Chairman, Tommy French. There are 33 members of the board of trustees.
The letter can be read below:
Dear Louisiana Baptists,
The undersigned members of the Board of Trustees of Louisiana College have come to the conclusion that due in part to our fiduciary responsibility to the Louisiana Baptist Convention as duly elected members of the Board of Trustees, and in part to preserve our integrity and testimony before God, our families, and our churches, we are forced to make a public statement regarding our concerns over actions of the administration of Louisiana College. This is a statement that we were ready to make last year upon calling for the resignation or termination of the President of Louisiana College but due, in large part, to the undue influence of the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention our actions were derailed and the President remained.
The great contribution of Baptists in American history has been our insistence upon freedom of expression and unfettered religious practice. The very language of “a wall of separation” came from Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association inConnecticut addressing concerns over religious freedom and openness in the face of suppression. Yet, we have been dealing with our own private Baptist school which has worked to suppress information, made veiled threats toward students and members of the Board of Trustees and labored to stifle communication from within the Board itself.
Louisiana College has been embroiled in public controversy since December of 2012. During that time, the Board of Trustees have met at both regular scheduled meetings and special called meetings in order to deal with issues of grave concern regarding charges of impropriety and general lack of leadership on the part of the President of Louisiana College. It has been widely reported that the Board has been deeply divided. This division is due in part to the undue influence of the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and what has been his vocal protection and defense of the current President of the Louisiana College.
The undersigned who have served on the Board over the last year feel as if we have been unable to appropriately fulfill the fiduciary responsibility you have placed on us for reasons including, but not limited to the following:
· We have requested information from the President’s office and been ignored.
· We have attempted to ask probing questions and been given partial truths and in some cases directly lied to.
· We have expressed concerns and some have been threatened with legal action.
· We have sparse communication with the President’s office at best and in at least one verifiable case, dissenting Board members were left out of a correspondence altogether.
· We were pushed to sign a confidentiality agreement when no such rule exists in our guiding documents.
· We have witnessed the undue influence of the Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director on Board proceedings (it should be noted that most Baptist schools have no place for a voting State Executive Director on their Boards of Trustees and many schools have no place at all for the Executive Director).
· We have requested that those who have been accused of wrong-doing, by the President, be allowed to defend themselves and those efforts have been thwarted.
· We have been saddled with false accusations of conspiracy and are tired of being identified in such a way.
· We have been told that we are not permitted to speak to any member of the faculty, as all communication is supposed to “come through the President.” Further, we have been admonished that we cannot even speak to one another about Board issues outside of the full Board being in session.
· We have witnessed no fewer than five (5) Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs during the current President’s tenure, which is unheard of in the Academy.
· We have noted several years of ongoing litigation which have consumed important funds that are needed elsewhere.
· We have been told of the high caliber and integrity of certain employees and then witnessed their being summarily discarded without an opportunity to understand or know why.
· We have been told of soaring programs and spent a significant amount of money on such programs only to see them vanish away without being given satisfactory accounting.
· We have been deeply concerned over the lack of leadership and the little to no information given to us from the Board Chairman, especially over the last two weeks, while innuendo, rumor and published media articles abound.
Our guiding documents articulate no process by which we can bring these concerns to the full body of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and thus, we have come to this. We are now asking you, Louisiana Baptists, to hold this Board accountable. You are the ultimate authority, you are the one to whom we answer. The Louisiana Baptist Convention owns this institution and should be made aware of our concerns. This issue has never been about theology, personal preference or a “satanic attack;” It has been about the abuse of power and authoritarian control. We are concerned with truth and transparency and we believe the Convention should be concerned about the same.
Lyndon E. Dawson, Jr.
Glenn R. George
Although this statement has been made by current members who have dissented in times past (meaning this list does not include any of the newest Board members), we do not want to suggest that concern is limited to only these signatories. In light of recent events as well as an outpouring of concern from students, alumni, and friends of LC, we encourage the entire board to be unified in charting a new direction for the College. We extend our appreciation to our fellow trustees for their dedication and concern for Louisiana College, and would encourage them with the words of wisdom found in Proverbs 16:9 “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”