PINEVILLE, La. (BP) -- Louisiana College trustees have ended the often-controversial presidency of Joe Aguillard.
Trustees voted in an April 15 meeting not to renew Aguillard's contract, which expires July 31.
But Aguillard, LC's president since 2005, was accorded the title of president emeritus and a tenured faculty position after a year's sabbatical.
The board named Argile Smith as interim president effective Aug. 1. Smith currently is executive vice president for integration of faith and learning at the college.
The trustee action, as described by the Baptist Message state newspaper, followed "weeks of news reports that questioned Aguillard's leadership," including allegations of forged signatures on documents provided to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS); secret recordings of Aguillard by a former vice president; and a lawsuit filed against the president and the college. (See Baptist Press story
posted March 31.)
LC trustee chairman Tommy French released a statement to the media following the meeting, stating in part, "Today, the Louisiana College Board of Trustees voted to bestow upon Dr. Aguillard the honor of continuing his contributions to Louisiana College in the role of President Emeritus.... God has blessed Louisiana College through the service of this President and we are grateful to God for that."
No vote total on the trustee action has been announced or reported in the media.
Aguillard's primary role will be to provide continuity during a time of transition, French told the Baptist Message in a phone conversation. He will not have any administrative duties, French said, but will serve as a consultant whenever called upon by the interim president and the new president when selected by trustees. Aguillard also will help raise funds for the college.
Aguillard is scheduled to begin a one-year paid sabbatical/leave of absence on June 1, with Smith serving in the role of president pro tempore and, on Aug. 1, as interim president.
Upon returning to the Pineville campus, Aguillard will be a tenured professor in the college's graduate teacher education program.
The local newspaper in nearby Alexandria, The Town Talk, reported that "multiple sources connected to the LC board" said the agreement calls for Aguillard to be paid his $202,007 base salary during the sabbatical, 50 percent of the base salary during his first year as a professor and 30 percent for any subsequent years he teaches at the college.
Not everyone was pleased with the trustees' decision. Larry Hubbard, a trustee who left early in the meeting and then resigned, told The Town Talk, "I think it's a very poor decision, wrong decision. Joe Aguillard needed to be removed.... I was hoping for a national search to look for a college president with competence, integrity and honesty." Hubbard is pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Watson.
The Baptist Message, on Monday (April 21) in continuing its reporting on the trustee meeting, was seeking to speak with trustees who affirmed the package provided to Aguillard.
During the meeting, trustees voted 18-14 to sign confidentiality agreements, the Message reported. The Message asked two trustees about the matter who said the confidentiality agreements would not allow them to comment on any specifics. The two trustees did say, however, that reports were not accurate that the confidentiality agreements had been requested by SACS under threat of probation.
Hubbard, however, was quoted by a TV station in Alexandria, News Channel 5, as saying that "a gag order [was] initiated and if you did not agree then you had to leave." It "would have gone against my conscience," Hubbard told the station. He also said trustees were told a letter had been received from SACS but "we never saw a copy of it."
The Baptist Message spoke with Michael Johnson, SACS senior vice president and chief of staff, who wrote in a follow-up email: "To repeat, I am not aware of a letter where we made such a statement, and only our Board has the authority to place an institution on probation. While we have several standards requiring specific policies pertaining to boards, we have no standard requiring board confidentiality policies. I hope there was some miscommunication or misunderstanding."
Belle S. Wheelan, president of SACS, responded to an email request from the Message about whether confidentiality statements must be in place or an institution would be placed on probation. "We did not, nor would we (since we have no standard that addresses that), tell them that," Wheelan wrote.
Argile Smith, who will serve as Louisiana College's interim president, serves not only as executive vice president for integration of faith and learning but also is associate dean of Christian Ministry in the Caskey School of Divinity and chair of the division of Christian studies. He holds the Lyndon E. Dawson Professorship in Religion at the Pineville campus.
Smith completed Ph.D. and master of divinity degrees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and an undergraduate degree from William Carey College in Hattiesburg, Miss. He and his wife Connie, who have been married 38 years, have three married sons and one granddaughter.
Adapted from reporting by Kelly Boggs, editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.