Aguillard in his own words: Will the real Joe Aguillard please stand-up, please stand-up, please stand-up?

There are few characters in Louisiana Baptist life that are as controversial as Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard. For some, he is the near messianic figure that led the redemption of Louisiana College from liberal heresy to conservative orthodoxy. That narrative began to fall into question, beginning in 2011 and gaining steam until 2013, when theological conservatives began to question Aguillard’s leadership. I was the first of the “New LC” crowd to do so in 2011 with my Open Letter to Louisiana Baptists. But in late 2012, a board member called for Aguillard’s resignation and two Vice Presidents filed whistle-blower complaints against Aguillard on ethical grounds. The Board then hired a law firm to investigate the allegations. The firm found that Aguillard had behaved unethically and that there was ample ground to fire him.

President Joe Aguillard
President Joe Aguillard

Despite all this, the Board, unofficially led by Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Director David Hankins, chose to close ranks behind Aguillard publicly proclaiming that Aguillard was a good and Godly leader. Though privately, Hankins told a Board member that Aguillard would “remain President unless he was found in bed with a live boy or a dead girl.” To invoke the words of corrupt former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards, who had only recently been released from prison and was still on probation, was not a ringing endorsement of Aguillard’s ethics. Further, it illustrated that for Hankins small issues like dishonesty and misappropriating college funds were not a major concern. Indeed, even the fact that Aguillard’s behavior had cost the college their largest donor in history was not enough to make Hankins withdraw his support for Aguillard.

Why is Hankins so supportive of the embattled President? To be honest, I can’t figure it out. This is a President that is so manipulative and controlling that when he became President he asked the IT Department about being able to listen in on employee phone conversations, which they refused to facilitate without a warrant. The one thing that is clear is that Hankins has chosen to support Aguillard at almost all costs.

Despite the public rhetoric about Aguillard, behind the scenes he continues to behave in ways that most of us would find reprehensible. Last Spring after Aguillard had decided to get rid of four faculty members from the Department of Christian Studies one of those faculty members, Ryan Lister, was voted by the student body as the Professor of the Year. This was an embarrassment to Aguillard so he cancelled the award. Some students found out about the cancelled award and distributed flyers exposing it.  To Aguillard this was a tremendous violation and he set about finding out who had done such a thing. In the course of this, he called an employee into his office who he thought may be able to help him narrow his search. This employee had seen a great deal of concerning behavior at the college and chose to record the meeting for protection. What, to me, was interesting is how explicit Aguillard was about attitudes that many of us knew he held but which he rarely stated explicitly.

At one point early in the meeting, Aguillard was explaining to this employee the attitude that the employee should have toward him. In Aguillard’s view the employee should say:

“He’s the President, and he knows what he is doing, and he knows things nobody else knows. So, because he’s my boss and Biblical authority rests in him to run this institution. I am proud to jump at his request as an employee of the college. I work for the President. I don’t work for Mr. Hargis or anybody else. He’s just a level between the President and me. I’m here to serve the President and show 1000% loyalty to whatever he does.”

There is no doubt that the President has authority over this employee. But, I think saying that the employee should be “proud to jump at his request” and show “1000% loyalty to whatever he does” shows a deeply flawed heart. Aguillard further explained to this employee that it was sinful to voice personal opinions about non-confidential college issues in private conversations and that loyalty should be to him not the college.

“Whether we disagree or not is not as much of the issue as your wrong. There is an employer. I am the employer and I sign your contract. You don’t work for the College. The College is not an employer. I am the employer and I sign your contract. You don’t work for the College. The College is not an employer. It’s a place of work. The employer is me and the employee is you.”

Aguillard continued at this point to demonstrate his authority saying things such as:

“Every office on campus is mine.  (pause for effect) Every office on campus is mine.”

“There is no freedom of speech here. I didn’t make that up. That’s the law. When a student says, “I have freedom of speech…” We have three attorneys who will laugh them into the ground because there is no such thing here.”

Even for someone like me who has seen Aguillard in meetings with closed doors, these blatant admissions of his supreme authority and his disregard for the rights of students is surprising. Further, Aguillard clearly articulated that his priority in employment was personal loyalty to him rather than competence.

“My number one rule is loyalty.”

“Competency means nothing without loyalty and discretion and confidentiality at this institution. And, you are competent and you have worked hard. But, the most competent person can hurt the institution more tragically, because they are not loyal, than a truly loyal person without competency. And, I’ll put loyalty over competency with everybody that I allow to voluntarily work here, including student workers.”

It should be noted that this employee was loyal to the institution and had not done anything wrong. But, the employee did feel that it was never made clear that “1000% loyalty to whatever he does” was the requirement for employment rather than competency. But, Aguillard determined that he would make this clear to all employees before they signed their next contracts.

“And, I’m going to make it very clear before people re-sign up. Don’t sign up here if you aren’t on board with Joe Aguillard. Cause it ain’t going work, it’s just not gonna work. That’s the way it is. Like my Momma and Daddy, you gonna live under my roof and eat my food and wear my clothes you will live by my rules.”

Do I believe seeing the Joe Aguillard that exists behind closed doors will make a difference to Hankins or those on the Board of Trustees? No. Do I think it will make a difference to John and Betty Baptist sitting in the pew on Sunday? I’m not sure. I think, for many, their opinion is set that any opposition against Aguillard is tantamount to Satan decrying the Messiah himself. But, I pray that there are still some who would question why David Hankins and the Louisiana College Board of Trustees have chosen to back a person who behaves this way.

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  • I’ve been studying the book of Daniel these last few weeks, and God had a pretty strong response to the king that demanded that people bow to him rather than the Most High God.

    If A really believes this (and it’s very clear he does), he has a long fall coming. It’s not a matter of if, but when. I don’t rejoice in this…it’s going to be awful for him when humility and repentance are no longer optional.

  • Allen Rowlen says:

    Might I suggest making the entire conversation available?

    • Yes I agree…the entire conversation and not just pieces.

      • Allen & Jessica,

        I understand the desire to hear the entire conversation and it is not an reasonable request. However, my source understandably wants to protect their identity. To be fair, Aguillard has an earned reputation for vindictiveness as has been discussed on this site before. I’ve known former employees (yes plural) who lived in other states and were still afraid to speak up because they feared he would go after them or their family as he has done in other cases.

        I did listen to the entire context of the conversation several times to make sure I understood the context well. But, to be honest I struggle to think of a context where many of the above Aguillard quotes would be acceptable.

        Additionally at this point, there is a tremendous amount of evidence that corraborates the character of Aguillard that is shown in this post.

  • Mollie Anderson says:

    The entire convo would be nice but you know what? Those recorded excerpts are ample enough to give us a tiny peek into the man he really is. We have already had dealings with him and i can speak firsthand to the dishonesty.

  • The Hankins “live boy, dead girl” line is a quote from former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards. As he was being indicted by John Votz back in the 80’s, he told the famed federal prosecutor that the only way he would loose (an election) would be by “being caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl.” For all the sources Hankins could quote and he chooses a corrupt former governor.


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