Alumni of Mount St. Mary’s University are pushing for the resignation of the school’s president after he fired two faculty members and demoted the provost while controversy mounts over an academic policy he created.
The decision to fire the faculty members came after they had stood in opposition to a plan introduced by President Simon Newman that would result in letting go any freshman found to be falling behind academically early on in the school year. Newman argued that doing so would improve the student retention rate for the school as well as its national ranking.
Graduates of the school were also offended by some of the comments made by Newman trying to justify his decision as a necessary evil and adding that the affected students should not be considered “cuddly bunnies,” but rather bunnies that should be drowned or shot in the head. Newman has since apologized for his remarks.
John Singleton is among the alumni pushing for the removal of Newman. Singleton earned his undergraduate degree as well as a graduate degree in business administration from the school in 1987.
“It’s not about raiding and restructuring,” said Singleton, alluding to Newman’s 30-year background in business and finance. “An atmosphere of hostile takeover does nothing for our students at Mount St. Mary’s University. It sends all the wrong messages and gives the appearance of an out-of-control administration that refuses to abide by its own rules.”
In an open letter to the president, the American Association of University Professors suggested he reinstate the tenured faculty member he had fired without an administrative hearing. The group referred to his actions as, “fundamentally at odds with basic standards of academic due process.”
Meanwhile, a separate petition making the rounds this week has already garnered thousands of signatures from professors across the country, calling for the reinstatement of those faculty members who lost their positions, writes Carrie Wells for The Baltimore Sun.
The issue began last month when the school newspaper, The Mountain Echo, published a story concerning the school’s decision to push out those freshman who they felt would not succeed, telling them in their first semester at the school that they should leave. Two professors who overheard the conversation quoted Newman as saying, “You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”
No official comment has been made by Newman, who has held the position for less than one year. John E. Coyne, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, has also declined to comment on the situation. According to an official statement from the university, the tenured professor had been fired as a result of policy violations, writes Susan Svrluga for The Washington Post.
“He was not terminated for expressing differing views from those of the administration,” the statement said. “To have done so would have been contrary to the academic and educational environment that has always characterized Mount St. Mary’s University.”
A unanimous resolution was passed by the board of trustees last month showing full confidence in Newman. They also discussed the “inappropriate metaphor” that he had used, saying it had taken place during a private conversation, and that Newman has since apologized.