USM Settled? Hardly!
The announcement that the termination of two tenured professors at the University of Southern Mississippi has been"settled" should alarm and terrify everyone concerned with academic freedom.
The two professors agreed to accept two years' salary in return for never setting foot on campus again. A gag order was also imposed, specifiying that the professors could not reveal or discuss the nature of the charges against them or the negotiations that resulted in settlement. We will never know, then, what happened, since the parties to the disupte have been bought off.
I say, bad show! Scholars around the country rallied to the defense of colleagues whose academic freedom was violated. We said then, and we say now, that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. But we all know from bitter experience how these issues typically end. Money changes hands, silence is purchased like a commodity on the market place, and the principle of academic freedom is sold off to the highest bidder -- just another token in a complex exchange whose ultimate common denominator is cash.
Thames should be hounded from office, certainly. He is a cad and a bounder. But the two professors bear some responsibility here, too. They didn't just sell themselves out, they sold the rest of us. And I, for one, don't like it.
Robert L. Campbell - 5/3/2004
Initially there were some bitter reactions on the Fire Shelby board that sounded very much like yours.
There are three threats that they faced that perhaps you aren't reckoning with:
1) There were almost certainly told by Judge Anderson that if they rejected the settlement the College Board would uphold their firings--even if their lawyers ripped Shelby Thames apart on cross-examination. Maybe that should be, especially if Adelman and McDuff ripped Thames apart on cross-examination (which there is every reason to believe they would have done).
2) Part of the deal was that the Board would consider the recommendations immediately. A ferocious Thames partisan named Roy Klumb was set to become the new Board president on May 8. Klumb told the press he didn't want the Board to consider the recommendations from the hearings until its next meeting on May 19. Any outcome short of firing the two professors would have been approved on May 19 over his dead body.
3) Angelina Dvorak was threatening to sue Glamser and Stringer for defamation. A meritless suit, but under our legal system she could have tied them up for a couple of years defending against it, and bled them white with legal bills. The settlement tells the Board and Thames to instruct her not to sue.
Keep in mind, too, that Thames, Klumb, and Dvorak are so invested in their own omnipotence as to be livid that a settlement took place at all. Klumb went on a radio talk show last night and accused Glamser and Stringer of committing a crime (by using Dvorak's Social Security Number in one of their inquiries).
In fact, Glamser and Stringer are not forbidden to set foot on campus. The actual conditions of the settlement are onerous enough, but Thames was so furious with it that he proceeded to lie to the press about its provisions.
I'm going to post later today about Klumb's comments. In the meantime, I hope everyone will thank Glamser and Stringer for putting themselves on the line--and now lend maximum support to everyone at USM is now speaking out against Thames and his misrule.
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