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Mar 14, 2004 6:13 pm


Unifarcity of Southern Mississippi ...



The saga continues at the University of Southern Mississippi. President Shelby Thames darkly hints that charges against Professors Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer may include allegations of criminal behavior. The attorney for Glamser and Stringer absolutely denies any criminal behavior on their part and asks the state College Board to order Thames to" cease and desist" making the vague insinuations. (See: here and here.) On Friday, Glamser and Stringer filed requests for internal hearings on the charges against them. The ACLU will act as co-counsel in the case.

The Hattiesburg American's lead editorial calls on the twelve member state College Board to act to resolve the USM turmoil at its March 18 meeting, even though the matter is not on its agenda, and the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that it expects that the Board will do so. Marshall Ramsey's cartoon in the Clarion-Ledger captures the situation fairly well. Little Mean Fish and Lord Sutch consider rumors about the background to this struggle that touch on the reshaping of higher education in Mississippi. The Hattiesburg American reports that the MSU Faculty Senate will consider a resolution asking President Thames to resign at its next meeting. Thanks to Lord Sutch for the tip.

Update: The Gulfport Sun-Herald reports that a six person advisory committee has been appointed to hear the charges against Glamser and Stringer. According to President Thames, it will meet in two to three weeks to hear the case, will offer an advisory recommendation to him, and he would forward it and his own recommendation to the state College Board, which would make the decision about whether Glamser and Stringer are to be terminated. The College Board could take some action on the turmoil at USM on March 18 but will delay any action on the status of the two professors until it has the recommendations from the advisory committee and Thames. Two of the six hearing committee members benefitted from Thames's unusual mid-year"merit" pay increases to selected members of the University faculty; and at least two members of the committee did not participate in the faculty's vote censuring President Thames and calling for the re-instatement of Glamser and Stringer.

The Sun-Herald also publishes letters from English Professor Noel Polk and History Professor Douglas Chambers. Polk says that Thames is"like a man who shoots a toe off every day and looks down and says, 'We've got a world-class foot.'" Chambers's letter appeals to my sense of history:

It all seems simple enough. By living out the Jeffersonian dictum of"following the truth wherever it may lead," two esteemed and honorable senior faculty were fired. By doing so, Shelby Thames has shown that he is unfit to be president of a major state university.
He has brought disrepute and ignominy on the University of Southern Mississippi, which likely will be officially censured by the national Association of American University Professors. This is serious. Though Dr. Thames apparently has no shame, we should be ashamed of his actions.
I am reminded of the words of a true Mississippi hero, the famed civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. She lived in a world where those who spoke up against rank injustice risked losing their livelihoods, their homes, and of course even their lives at that time. But there came a time when she had had enough. She said simply that she was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Crisis can be a test of character. Shelby Thames has once again failed his, and in doing so he has failed this university.
Many of us have become sick and tired of being sick and tired and the longer one has been here the deeper must be the sadness and the pain. It is clear that for the good of this university, for its students and its faculty who together are the heart and soul of this institution of higher learning, for its professional reputation, for its future, for the noble venture which it represents, the IHL Board must immediately review Shelby Thames' performance in office.
An objective assessment of the current situation at USM suggests that, in tandem with our times, what is called for is"regime change."
Then, of course, there is the attitude of Oxblog's David Adesnik that an affair like that at USM is a"tempest in a teapot." When you're a Yalie at Oxford, you have more important things to think about: a world economy to manage, a Middle East to democratize, and Salma Hayek to bed -- you know, the BIG picture. I prefer the attitude that says: "the frame of reference that matters isn't Swarthmore or Harvard or the University of Michigan. It's Southern Mississippi which is more representative of the breadth of academic life by far ...". Tim Burke's words are exactly on target. At Liberty & Power, do not miss Robert Campbell's thoughtful comparison of the current struggle at USM with similar struggles at Clemson in the past decade.

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