LSU spent nearly $1 million on legal fight over firing of coastal researcher Ivor van Heerden

Philosopher Stephen Turner wrote: “A court case after the Katrina disaster gives some indication of the power of the state to coerce consensus. An obscure engineering researcher at Louisiana State University criticized the Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible for the levee that failed and flooded much of the city of New Orleans, for its errors. The university, apparently encouraged by its own professors, had the researcher fired. The case went to court and eventually was settled without a trial with a payment to the researcher.³ The issue, however, was important: it was believed that the criticisms would affect the relationship between the university and the federal government, on which it depended for research grants, even though the Army Corps was not itself a source of funds. The situation with the CDC is precisely parallel. The main source of funds in the area of infectious disease was the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious disease (NIAID) which received $5.89 billion in the 2020 budget. The total NIH budget is over $40 billion. These funds are a matter of scientific life or death for researchers in this area.”

From 2013:

Louisiana State University spent close to $1 million to wage its battle against former research geologist Ivor van Heerden over his claims that senior university officials destroyed his career after he criticized the Army Corps of Engineers for its role in the failure of levees during Hurricane Katrina, according to new documents released Tuesday by the activist group…

Van Heerden, who also served as assistant director of the LSU Hurricane Center, chaired a panel of scientists and engineers sponsored by the state Department of Transportation and Development in the immediate aftermath of Katrina to conduct a forensic investigation of the failures in the levee system, including the reasons for the 35-foot slide and collapse of a levee and floodwall along the 17th Street Canal and several failures of floodwalls along the east side of the Industrial Canal.

Early in the investigation, Van Heerden made public statements blaming the failures on design mistakes by corps engineers. His team confirmed that conclusion in its written report.Van Heerden also wrote a book, “The Storm,” co-authored by Mike Bryan, about his experiences conducting the research that also was highly critical of the corps… founder Sandy Rosenthal said the group decided to look into the cost of the legal battle involving LSU because it was concerned about the university’s actions involving what turned out to be an accurate research effort. “It meshes with the goals of our organization, which is educating the public about why New Orleans flooded, and the behavior of higher-ups at LSU looked to us to be the opposite of what we were trying to do,” she said. “We were trying to get the truth out about the cause of the flooding, and the higher-ups at LSU seemed to be suppressing the truth.”

The university’s actions also were criticized by LSU Faculty Senate President Kevin Cope, Rosenthal said. “LSU has chosen to hound a faculty member, to engage in secrecy and cover-up tactics, and to try to save face by engaging in a quixotic legal quest that it rightly lost,”…

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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