Tuesday, March 1, 2016

President quits Mt. St. Mary's

Mt. St. Mary's adventure in bunny killing is over.
Simon Newman, the college leader whose metaphor about drowning bunnies made him infamous in higher education, announced late Monday that he has resigned, effective immediately, as president of Mount St. Mary's University.
 The Mount St. Mary’s campus has been in turmoil since word leaked in January through The Mountain Echo, the student newspaper, that Newman had compared struggling students to bunnies that need to be drowned or killed with a Glock. The metaphor grabbed attention, but educators said the underlying debate was what really mattered.
Newman had proposed to use a survey -- on which freshmen would be told there were no wrong answers -- to identify those at risk of dropping out and to encourage them to do so in the first weeks of the semester. The idea was to raise the university’s retention rate, since those who leave very early in the semester don’t count in the total enrollment figures. Many professors and some administrators protested the plan, saying that the university has an obligation to try to educate those it admits.
For those just catching up on the controversy, here is an article about the initial report on the now infamous bunnies metaphor, an article on the firing of two faculty members who opposed Newman (and whom he subsequently reinstated), and another piece on growing national outrage. Throughout the furor, many have asked who had the authority to stop what they viewed as a deeply flawed president who appeared to have the backing of his board.
Newman did seem to have the support of students, perhaps tied to his bringing a Starbucks to campus and including HBO in their cable package. But then there was this:
 In February, the situation for the university worsened when its regional accreditor, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, asked the university to provide answers on a series of issues on which Newman's policies and actions may have violated the agency's rules.
And this:
 Among the most surprising developments was when several Mount St. Mary's employees and ex-employees confirmed reports that he asked colleagues, "Why are there so many crucifixes?" on the campus. Answer: Mount St. Mary's has a seminary and is among the nation's oldest Catholic colleges.
Good luck to the Mount.

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