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President of Mount St. Mary’s U. Goes Nuclear, Fires Professors Who Questioned Plan to Expel Students (UPDATED)

By February 9, 2016

Reports out of Maryland’s Mount St. Mary’s University (MSMU) allege administrators have fired two professors—one of whom had tenure—and demoted a third as retribution for criticizing MSMU President Simon Newman’s controversial plan to oust low-performing freshmen in an effort to improve rankings.

FIRE is deeply concerned about what appears to be an egregious encroachment upon faculty and student rights.

Last month, MSMU’s student newspaper, The Mountain Echo, reported that Newman planned to “cull the class” of the worst 20–25 students to improve the school’s standing. Emails leaked to The Echo quoted Newman as admonishing faculty for “think[ing] of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

The Washington Post reported last night that Newman’s plan was rebuked by some faculty, who then talked about it publicly. Retaliation against those professors has apparently been swift, according to The Post:

On Monday, the faculty advisor to the Echo was fired.

So was another member of the faculty, Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor of philosophy who had expressed concerns about that and other proposals of the president’s.

Edward Egan, the campus newspaper advisor, was a professor of law and former trustee of the university.

He is an alumnus and the son of an alumnus at the private Catholic university in Maryland.

FIRE received this statement from Rebecca Schisler, news editor at The Mountain Echo, this morning:

I am deeply saddened and appalled at what has happened here over the past few days. The men that were fired were of the best mentors and professors I have ever known. The University will miss each and every one of them because they brought enormous passion and energy to the Mount.

Mount St. Mary’s University lists the right to free speech as paramount among its values, giving students and faculty no reason to expect administrative punishment for expressing dissenting opinions on campus.

UPDATED 1:10 PM EST: A petition protesting the firings, authored by Florida State University professor John Schwenkler, is circulating on Facebook and Twitter.

John Protevi, a professor at Louisiana State University, tweeted that the petition has gained steam quickly:

Expect further updates from FIRE this afternoon and as the story develops.

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