The tenured professor at Mount St. Mary’s University who was abruptly fired Monday got a letter from the university this week offering a meeting with administrators to “explore the possibility of conciliation.”
The letter said the professor, Thane Naberhaus, remains on the payroll and is suspended from teaching.
The firing of Naberhaus and another professor, who was the adviser to the student newspaper on campus which broke a story critical of the university’s president Simon Newman, launched a national backlash as scholars around the country protested that the terminations seemed to be retribution and a violation of academic freedom.
More than 7,800 scholars have digitally signed a petition posted online Tuesday calling for the professors to be reinstated and emphasizing the importance of academic freedom. National groups, including the American Association of University Professors and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, have strongly criticized the terminations as well
The Chronicle of Higher Education first reported the letter. Naberhaus said a member of the campus public safety staff hand-delivered the letter to him. His reaction was “Bafflement, amazement, mainly,” Naberhaus said. “I couldn’t quite figure out what the letter was saying.”
A spokesperson for the university did not immediately respond to a request to clarify Naberhaus’s employment status Friday morning.
Naberhaus said he was ordered to a meeting with university officials Monday but said he would not attend unless he could record it or have a lawyer with him. Later that afternoon, someone from the public safety office took his computer and keys and gave him the termination letter.
“First terminated, then a conciliation process, then a possible appeals process,” Naberhaus said. “None of that made any sense to me.
“There is an appeals process outlined in our governing documents. The appeals process makes sense. But that was supposed to happen before I was terminated.”
He hasn’t decided whether to meet with them yet, he said.
He wants to teach at the Mount again — he loves the school, he said. But he said he won’t teach there if Newman remains president.