Mount St. Mary’s president steps down after months of controversy

President Simon Newman of Mount St. Mary’s University resigned Monday evening after facing months of criticism for firing a tenured faculty member and developing a questionable student retention plan.

“I am proud of what I have been able to achieve in a relatively short time particularly in helping the University chart a clear course toward a bright future,” Newman wrote in a statement Monday. “I care deeply about the school and the recent publicity relating to my leadership has become too great of a distraction to our mission of educating students. It was a difficult decision but I believe it is the right course of action for the Mount at this time.”

Newman came into the spotlight last year after he developed a plan to “cull the class” by identifying the lowest performing students and dismissing them from the incoming freshmen class within the opening months of the semester. The plan, he hoped, would improve the university’s retention rate.

Fellow administrators, however, were “deeply concerned” with the plan and met privately to discuss it with Newman. During a September meeting, Dr. Greg Murry challenged the ethical merit of Newman’s plan.

“This is hard for you because you think of students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t,” Newman replied. “You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

The Mountain Echo, a student-run newspaper, broke the story of Newman’s retention plan and his scandalous comments instantly received national attention.

Newman immediately fired faculty advisor to The Echo Edward Egan and tenured professor Thane Naberhaus, who was openly critical of Newman.

Newman later apologized for his language and even offered Naberhaus and Egan their jobs back, but the damage was done.

[RELATED: Mount St. Mary’s president in hot water over professor’s firing]

Nearly 5,000 faculty members from various universities across the country sent a letter to Newman in protest of his decision to fire Naberhaus and Egan.

Early last month, a faculty board voted 87 to 3 to ask Newman to resign by Feb. 15.

The university attracted widespread condemnation from the American Association of University Professors, the American Philosophical Association, and the Middle States Commission, the school’s accreditor, which asked Newman to answer for his actions.

The Board of Trustees accepted Newman’s resignation Monday night effective immediately.

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