Thane Naberhaus, a tenured professor of philosophy at Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland, was fired after openly questioning the policies of the University president, Simon Newman. Many students and professors are up in arms about the decision. Ed Egan, a law professor and school newspaper adviser, was also let go.
1. Thane Naberhaus, a Tenured Professor, Was Fired Without Severance
Thane Naberhaus and Ed Egan were fired without severance, effective immediately, The Washington Post reported. The firing was allegedly due to their reactions to an unpopular retention policy that University President Simon Newman was proposing. They were fired without faculty review or advance notice, Inside Higher Ed reported.
Naberhaus was an associate professor of philosophy. He was accused of disloyalty when he was fired, as expressed in his dismissal letter, The New York Times reported:
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 the duty. However, your recent actions, in my opinion and that of others, have violated that duty and clearly justify your termination.”
According to his bio, which has since been removed from the university’s website, Naberhaus has a Ph.D. from Georgetown, an M.A. from the University of Memphis, and a BA from Rice. He joined Mount St. Mary’s in 2004 as a visiting assistant professor and became a full member of the philosophy department the next year. He was also the former director of the university’s honors program, The Washington Post reported.
2. Naberhaus Said His Dismissal Was Like a “George Orwell Novel”
Naberhaus compared his dismissal to a George Orwell novel, The New York Times reported:
“It’s the kind of thing you could expect in a George Orwell novel or something like that… But you wouldn’t think this would happen in the real world, or at least not the United States of America.”
Christian Kendzierski, university spokesman, told The Frederick News-Post that Naberhaus’s dismissal had nothing to do with the retention program or comments made about it. In an email to faculty, Newman said that it’s common practice for a new president to change the senior leadership team.
Naberhaus was a tenured professor. When asked to attend a meeting with the administration, he refused without permission to have an attorney present because his tenure is a contract, Frederick News-Post reported.
3. Naberhaus Had Openly Objected to President Newman’s Policies
Naberhaus wasn’t shy about openly disagreeing with Newman’s new policies.
Newman had an ambitious plan to double enrollment at the university while increasing retention by 4 to 5 percent, through removing 20 to 25 people from the freshmen class. Unfortunately, he wanted to do so by aggressively targeting freshmen who had only been at the university for a few weeks, The Washington Post Reported. This was allegedly so that the freshmen could be removed before the deadline for submitting enrollment data to the government, which might improve the school’s federal retention rate. Professors were concerned about Newman’s retention policy because it included sending out a survey that would help determine which students wouldn’t last. According to The Washington Post, the survey included troublesome questions such as whether the students felt depressed, couldn’t shake the blues, or felt that their life was a failure.
The Mountain Echo, the student newspaper, reported that the survey would be presented to students as a tool to help them discover more about themselves. Students would be encouraged to answer honestly because “there are no wrong answers.”
4. The Student Newspaper Quoted Newman As Saying Some Freshmen Were Cuddle Bunnies Who Needed To Be Drowned
The Mountain Echo ran a special edition where it discussed Newman’s highly controversial retention plan. The Mountain Echo reported that Newman told professors: “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.”
Newman later apologized for using an inappropriate metaphor in what he expected was a private conversation with a faculty member, CBS News reported.
The university’s board chairman said that Newman’s quote was an unfortunate metaphor, but he supported Newman’s plans. Ultimately, the survey wasn’t used.
5. Professors Across the Country Are Signing a Petition to Reinstate the Two Professors
Professors across the country are seeking to have Naberhaus and Egan reinstated by the administration. Professors who signed the petition were from Stanford, North Carolina Central, the University of Nebraska, Harvard, and many other universities. You can read the petition here. It currently has more than 6,800 signatures.
In his dismissal letter, Naberhaus was told that he was “designated persona non grata” and was banned from the campus, Inside Higher Ed reported. He was told that his actions caused considerable damage and he might be sued.
Naberhaus has a 3.6 ranking on Rate My Professors, with students rating him from “poor” to “good.” Some say he was one of their favorite professors who truly cared and others said he was condescending and rude.