The president of Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland on Monday fired two faculty members without any faculty review of his action or advance notice. One was a tenured professor who had recently criticized some of the president's policies. The other was the adviser to the student newspaper that revealed the president recently told faculty members concerned about his retention plans that they needed to change the way they view 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," the president said.
Many believe a third faculty member may also be fired, as he also has criticized the president's policies. Administrators were seen trying to find that faculty member today for an urgent meeting, which is how the two who were fired were dismissed. It is unclear whether they were able to locate the third faculty member.
Monday's firings follow the dismissal on Friday of Provost David Rehm, who also raised questions about President Simon Newman's retention plans. (Rehm held on to his faculty position.)
Newman's letter firing the tenured professor -- Thane M. Naberhaus of the philosophy department -- accused him of disloyalty.
"As an employee of Mount St. Mary's University, you owe a duty of loyalty to this university and to act in a manner consistent with that duty. However, your recent actions, in my opinion and that of others, have violated that duty and clearly justify your termination," said the letter.
Further, the letter said that Naberhaus's actions "have caused considerable damage" to the university and that the university might sue him. In addition, the letter told Naberhaus he was "designated persona non grata" and banned from the campus.
Faculty members reached on campus Monday were nervous about talking, given that their colleagues were being fired and that the administration has told them to consult with the public relations department before talking to reporters. But, speaking anonymously, professors said some faculty and support staff members were crying in various offices. With the firing of the provost and two faculty members -- all of whom had disagreed with the president -- people said they were scared.
"It's terrifying, and nobody is safe," said one faculty member. "It is shattering. It feels like the end of what so many of us have sacrificed for."
Naberhaus said in an interview shortly after he was dismissed that it was "utterly fraudulent" to fire someone for not being loyal. He said he objected to the idea that dissenting views could be considered sufficiently disloyal to merit dismissal.
Further, he said he wasn't disloyal and that since arriving in 2004, he had worked constantly for the university, leading its honors college, advising students and participating in campus life. "I love this institution and what it's been and what it could be," he said. "I think I've been loyal to the Mount. Who determines that I'm not loyal? And how? How can you fire someone this way?"
A spokesman for Mount St. Mary's did not respond to several email messages seeking comment on the dismissals, except to confirm that the two faculty members known to have been dismissed are no longer employees.