Mount St. Mary’s University: Opposition to University President Results in Faculty Firings, Threats to Free Student Press

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Mount St. Mary’s University

On February 8, 2016, Mount St. Mary’s University (MSMU) in Maryland fired a tenured faculty member, as well as the faculty advisor to student newspaper The Mountain Echo, following their criticism of first-year university President Simon P. Newman’s controversial freshman retention plan. The firings came after The Echo published a story on January 19 that highlighted a plan that aimed to dismiss 20–25 low-performing freshman students in order improve the university’s student retention rate. Several faculty and administrators had expressed misgivings about the program, which became headline news after the Echo reported that Newman told a faculty member, “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.” The two fired faculty members were notified of their firings by letter, which declared that they were “persona non grata” at the university and are no longer welcome on campus or at any university activities.

The firings unleashed a storm of criticism, and on February 12, Newman announced at a faculty meeting that Egan and Naberhaus had been reinstated. Although Newman’s reversal is a welcome development, Mount St. Mary’s actions have caused lasting damage to the community’s confidence in the administration.