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LSU fires knowledgeable hurricane researcher

By Allen Lottinger -   Apr 16, 2009

A very respected spokesman on hurricane protection and coastal restoration in Louisiana has been fired from his job as research director at LSU. Dr. Ivor van Heerden was a knowledgeable participant at many of the high level meetings on how to repair and protect the fragile Louisiana coast.

He was very outspoken. And it is said that may have been the reason for his dismissal.


Van Heerden had agreed to head the investigation of flooded conditions in New Orleans soon after Hurricane Katrina. Following that, he was frequently quoted in the national press as criticizing policies of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in construction of flood walls and levees. He claimed the waters from the storm would have done much less damage to New Orleans if it had not been for faulty planning and construction of the drainage canal levees by the Corps.
He reportedly had been told by LSU officials to quit talking to the media because it threatened the universityís opportunities to get funding for research from the federal government.

A former official of LSU however indicated that van Heerden was relieved of his position because he was not a civil engineer qualified to comment on levees and construction but was trained in geology and botany. He did, however, obtain a doctorate in marine sciences from LSU. And he had engineers and other scientists from LSU and the private sector working on his team.

It would be hard to convince this writer that, at the meetings he attended when Dr. van Heerden was present, the research director was not the most knowledgeable person on the floor on the subject of coastal erosion and hurricane protection. And just about everyone in the room gave van Heerdenís views full attention, more than anyone else on the program.

Officials at LSU will not disclose their reasons for firing Dr. van Heerden because they say it is university policy not to comment on personnel matters. Too bad that the people of Louisiana cannot find out what is going on at the university they own.

Higher
education
duplications
should be cut
Now that Louisiana faces a $4 billion shortfall in revenue during the next three years, itís time to start trimming the cost of state government. And that could be a good thing.
It takes a necessity such as this to get politicians to cut down on unnecessary expenses. And one of the areas to be explored for those cuts is in our system of providing higher education.

Many of our present-day colleges were established as two-year colleges. But over the years, they became four-year colleges, not because they were needed as such but because the college officials pressured politicians to expand their institutions. Had we concentrated on providing good two-year colleges at locations throughout the state for students to attend from their homes and two or three centrally located four-year colleges and graduate schools, our system of higher education could be just as good and at much less cost. Also, when integration was ended in higher education, we retained state colleges, previously black and white, almost next door to each other that duplicate the work at much more cost.

To say that good higher education canít come at lower cost in Louisiana would overlook the duplications that exist in the system.

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