EMMITSBURG, Md. (AP) — Mount St. Mary's University President Simon Newman rejected the faculty's demand for his resignation Monday after a majority of students expressed support for his leadership, including a bluntly pragmatic plan to boost the academic ranking of the nation's second-oldest Catholic university.
"I'm not going to stop," Newman told scores of cheering students rallying outside the administration building. Although classes were canceled by a blustery snowstorm, students showed up with signs reading, "I Stand by Newman" and "Team Newman." They listened to brief speeches by Newman and student government leaders, and then invited their peers to discuss the dispute at a nearby cafeteria.
Faculty members will meet later this week to discuss their reaction to Newman's refusal to step down, David McCarthy, a professor of theology and secretary to the faculty, said in an email. He said 90 of the roughly 110 full-time faculty voted by secret ballot Friday, and 87 of them supported the request for Newman to resign by Monday morning.
"Our decision was based on what we think is the best way for the university to move forward," McCarthy wrote.
He said there was also wide agreement that some of the initiatives Newman started during his first year on the job should continue.
Three members of the school's Board of Trustees, which has so far backed Newman, attended the rally. They said afterward that the board planned to meet by teleconference Monday evening.
"We're in the deliberative stage of gathering information," said board member Kevin Cashen, a Baltimore-area banker. "We're not at the point that we've gathered all the facts and talked to all the constituents to be able to decide on what the next step might be."
On Sunday, the school's Student Government Association released a student poll indicating 3-to-1 support for Newman. The group said 951 of the 1,573 undergraduates voted in the online poll, and 76 percent of them answered yes to the question: "Do you believe in the president's (Simon Newman's) leadership and vision for the future of the Mount?"
The faculty vote seeking Newman's resignation came several weeks after the student newspaper, The Mountain Echo, reported on his plan to identify freshman at risk of failure, provide supportive intervention, and offer tuition refunds to those who chose to leave early in their first semester. The newspaper published excerpts from emails between Newman and then-provost David Rehm in which Newman wrote that his goal was to have 20 to 25 people leave by Sept. 25, the cutoff date for reporting enrollment to the federal government. The Echo reported that Newman wrote that the move would boost the school's official student-retention rate, one of the factors publications such as U.S. News & World Report consider when ranking universities.
The Echo also reported that Newman, a former financial industry executive, had told a faculty member opposed to the plan: "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 has apologized for the remarks.
The Board of Trustees investigated the story and concluded it was a deliberate mischaracterization of the program perpetrated by a small group of faculty and recent alumni, whom the board said would be held accountable.
Rehm was subsequently demoted and two faculty members, tenured philosophy professor Thane Naberhaus and pre-law program director Edward Egan, were fired. On Friday, Newman offered to reinstate Naberhaus and Egan. Naberhaus has said he won't return as long as Newman is president. Egan told The Frederick News-Post he was considering his options. Neither returned calls or emails Monday from The Associated Press.