PINEVILLE, La. (ABP) – A Louisiana court canceled a hearing May 16, effectively nullifying a lawsuit filed against Baptist-affiliated Louisiana College by an art professor who claims he was fired for writing a letter critical of the school’s administration, the Alexandria Town Talk newspaper has reported .
Rondall Reynoso, who began teaching at the private college affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention in 2007, filed a lawsuit May 5 claiming denial of his constitutional rights of free speech and due process. The suit said Reynoso was fired for writing a March 7 letter titled “Dear Louisiana Baptists” that was reportedly sent to more than 250 people, including some who published it in blogs.
The five-page open letter , written after Reynoso learned his contract was not being renewed next year, accused Louisiana College of “taking the Lord’s name in vain” by professing to be a Christian institution while acting in ways that bring dishonor to God’s character.
Reynoso’s criticisms included salary increases for Joe Aguillard, the president of Louisiana College since 2005. The professor said Aguillard’s pay increased by more than 50 percent, to $190,813 reported in 2009-2010, over a five-year period in which faculty received no pay raises.
“I struggle to reconcile how a conservative Christian leader who knows his faculty is among the lowest paid in the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (88th out of 106) and who knows he has faculty members who are reliant on public aid can take over $65,000 in raises for himself without ensuring raises for the under paid in his employ,” Reynoso wrote.
Reynoso also questioned the wisdom of borrowing money to build a football stadium while campus buildings are in serious disrepair, claimed that academic quality is slipping and cited a “culture of dishonesty” at Louisiana College that if challenged is branded as disloyalty.
College officials have declined to discuss specifics of the lawsuit but disputed claims in the March 7 letter. Reynoso sought unspecified damages and a halt to disciplinary actions being pursued against him, but his attorney told the local newspaper May 16 that the professor’s contract expired the week before, ending his client’s ties with Louisiana College and rendering the issues involved “moot.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.