- Embattled Mount St. Mary's University President Simon Newman announced his immediate resignation Monday, with School of Business Dean Dr. Karl Einolf named acting president by the board of trustees.
- Newman came under fire in late January after the university's student newspaper, The Mountain Echo, published leaked emails between himself and institutional leaders. Gaining particular attention was a graphic analogy used in detailing a plan to faculty members regarding culling low-performing freshmen before they counted toward retention numbers.
- Trustees and a vocal group of students maintained support for Newman throughout the controversy, but he faced backlash from faculty, as well as questions from the institution's accreditor. Newman stated that his decision to resign was made in the institution's best interest due to publicity over his leadership.
The trouble began in late January, when, along with the emails, Newman was quoted as having criticized faculty members as being prone to thinking of students as "cuddly bunnies," and that sometimes, you "just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads."
If nothing else, the situation spotlights the importance of shared governance in higher ed, as well as faculty apprehension to leaders pulled from the business or political world as opposed to academia. The Universities of Iowa and North Carolina have seen backlash to executive hires from outside of academe, though not to the extent that resignations have ensued. For an institution to function well, its leaders must have the support and respect of faculty — and that comes from giving them a say in these initiatives.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the accreditor, began inquiring about the controversy on Friday, giving officials until March 15 to submit requested information. Specifically, it was interested in the potential impact on compliance with provisions related to integrity, admissions and retention, faculty, and leadership and governance. That inquiry may have been the straw that broke the camel's back on Newman's tenure.
The chairman of the board of trustees had criticized faculty over the scandal, which had already escalated to the point that a provost and two faculty members were fired for their roles and perceived lack of institutional "loyalty." The two professors were, however, ultimately reinstated.