Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rural college president fires tenured professor and student newspaper adviser for lack of 'loyalty'

A college president in rural Maryland has fired two faculty members, one who criticized him and the other an adviser for the student newspaper, which published unflattering quotes from the president on his attempts to dismiss 20 to 25 first-year students to improve retention rates. Simon Newman, president of Mount St. Mary's college in Emmitsburg (Best Places map), reportedly told faculty members last month about struggling students: "This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads," Rebecca Schisler and Ryan Golden reported for The Mountain Echo, the school paper.

Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor who had objected to the president’s policies, and Ed Egan, a law professor and former trustee who worked with journalism students, were fired Monday effective immediately and without severance, Susan Svrluga reports for The Washington Post. "A few days earlier, David Rehm, who had raised several concerns about the president’s retention plan, was removed from his position as provost. He remains on the faculty."

"Professors from universities across the country—from Stanford to North Carolina Central to the University of Nebraska to Harvard—signed a petition Tuesday calling on the Mount St. Mary’s University administration to reinstate professors who had been fired," Svrluga writes. Within hours, the petition had more than 2,400 digital signatures.

A termination letter from Newman to Naberhaus "said that he 'owes a duty of loyalty to [the university]' and he should 'act in a manner consistent with that duty'," Jeremy Bauer-Wolf reports for The Frederick News-Post. Michelle Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, said the idea that Naberhaus was fired for a lack of loyalty raises red flags. Cooper told Bauer-Wolf, “What is concerning me is that a lot of what is occurring at the Mount is unprecedented. … A lack of loyalty does not present as a just case for a firing. What does that mean, loyalty? It’s just so subjective.”

Bauer-Wolf reports, "The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, known as FIRE, released a statement Tuesday criticizing the firings of the professors. FIRE connects students and faculty whose rights might have been violated to a network of pro bono attorneys. The organization publicly advocates for students and faculty."

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