- In a written statement, the chairman of Mount St. Mary’s University’s Board of Trustees, John E. Coyne III, blamed the controversy surrounding President Simon P. Newman on a small group of faculty who leaked emails to the student newspaper and discussed a private conversation in which Newman told them to stop thinking of at-risk students as cuddly bunnies and to “drown the bunnies.”
- The Chronicle of Higher Education reports the statement defended Newman’s retention program, in which he advocated getting rid of 20-25 freshmen at risk of later dropping out, saying it had an innovative approach and was in keeping with the school’s Catholic identity.
- Coyne also criticized the actions of several faculty and recent alums that contributed to the controversy’s spread far beyond the Mount St. Mary’s campus, accusing them of using the student newspaper “to advance their own personal agenda” to force Newman’s exit.
The Board of Trustees maintains unanimous, full confidence in Newman, according to Coyne’s statement. Newman was brought in to lead the university with a background in business, not academia. The same move caused distrust at the University of Iowa, where students and faculty voted no-confidence in President Bruce Harreld after his appointment by the board of trustees.
In a time in which politics plays a significant role in institutional funding, especially for public colleges and universities, boards of trustees have looked for this skillset, too. This helped Janet Napolitano get her job in California and Margaret Spellings in North Carolina. While it is still most common to see university presidents who moved up through academia, this could be a new era in higher education leadership.