The open letter of support for two professors fired for lack of “loyalty” from their positions at Mount St. Mary’s University, authored yesterday by philosopher John Schwenkler (FSU), gained 1500 signatories in its first three hours and now has over 4000. The story is being followed not just by higher education outlets like IHE and The Chronicle, but also The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun. Professor Schwenkler was interviewed yesterday by The New York Times but their article has yet to appear.
UPDATE: Professor Schwenkler has written a brief piece at Commonweal about the controversial actions taken by Mount St. Mary’s President, Simon Newman, including that Newman has reportedly halted publication of the student paper that brought his controversial remarks to the public’s attention.
UPDATE 2: The New York Times reports on the story.
UPDATE 3: Mount St. Mary’s President, Simon Newman, sent a letter to parents this afternoon. Towards the end of it, he addresses the firing of two faculty members, Thane Naberhaus and Ed Egan (no mention was made of the demotions of former dean Joshua Hochschild or former provost David Rehm):
I want to briefly address my decision to dismiss two faculty members who violated a number of our University policies and our code of ethics. We, as an institution, have received quite a bit of press recently and have chosen not to respond more forcefully with information about the specifics of their conduct which we have available to us. In keeping with our values, we will take the high road. But it is critical that you know that we would never undertake actions like that unless the conduct in question warranted it. You may see other versions of events, but we have chosen to restore our focus on educating your students rather than explaining the damaging actions of a few individuals. We need to move forward with hope and faith rather than fall prey to fear and disparity during this time of transition.
I am a father. My heart knows just who you have entrusted to our care. The education, safety, and ultimate future of your son or daughter is at the heart of why I am here and what I love about the Mount.
Follow our progress, see our university thrive with growth in its third century, but please know as a parent, that we are providing your student with a caring, welcoming, and academically strong environment. Students impacted by faculty changes will receive communication regarding their advising and class schedules.
tl;dr — “Because I’m the dad, that’s why.”
Full text is reproduced here.
(Thanks to Jennifer Frey and Angela Schwenkler for the pointer.)
UPDATE 4: Commentary elsewhere: Ed Kazarian (Rowan) on the institutional incentives that led Simon Newman to suggest using a student survey results to cull weaker students, Adriel Trott (Wabash) on the idea that we can tell in the first two weeks of college which students will do poorly, Magical Ersatz on the how the president’s proposed use of the student survey is discriminatory, and Mike LaBossiere (Florida A&M) on what a “duty to loyalty” to the university really implies about who should get fired. As a philosopher summed it up on Facebook: “He wanted to use a fraudulent mental health survey to target students for elimination so as to game federal retention statistics, and he fired people for objecting.”