Despite a vote of no confidence and demands that he step down by 9 a.m. Monday, Mount St. Mary’s University President Simon Newman is back at work – with the university saying students support the controversial leader.
A university spokesman confirmed to the Frederick News Post that Newman had not resigned, and provided pictures of the president at various student events over the weekend, some of which included signs reading, “I stand with Simon.”
The student government of the Maryland Catholic school conducted a poll over the weekend in which 75 percent of respondents said Newman should not resign. A group of about 70 students and staff held a rally Monday morning to support Newman, just three days after the faculty voted 87 to 3 to call for his resignation.
“I’m simply grateful for the help and support,” Newman told the News Post.
Newman came under fire last month after the student newspaper made public a controversial plan to increase the school’s retention rate, which included identifying at-risk students and encouraging them to drop out before the federal enrollment filing deadline. Newman also used language about those students some considered offensive.
Last week, Newman faced more backlash after firing two faculty members who, he said, were critical and disloyal to the university.
He reversed course Friday, saying both professors could have their jobs back, citing Pope Francis and the Jubilee of Mercy. One rejected the offer, saying he would return only when Newman stepped down, but another, philosophy professor Thane Naberhaus, was back at work Monday morning.
Naberhaus said in a statement to the philosophy blog Daily Nous that his decision to return to the classroom “has nothing to do with accepting the ‘mercy’ of President Newman.”
“Rather, I am returning for my students, who were left without a replacement for me last week. My aim in returning is the same as my aim in teaching generally: to deepen the hunger for truth in my students.”
Mount St. Mary’s is the nation’s second oldest Catholic institution, and was one of about 20 considered authentically Catholic by the conservative higher-education watchdog group, the Cardinal Newman Society.
Last week, the society released a statement saying it found the events “disturbing” and that it was reconsidering promoting the school.