Catholic college head quits after ‘bunnies’ remark

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The entrance sign to Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland, United States.

Photo courtesy of Guoguo12 via Wikimedia Commons

The entrance sign to Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland, United States.

The embattled president of Mount St. Mary’s University has resigned after an outcry over his comparison of struggling freshmen to bunnies who should be drowned or shot to boost the college’s academic standing.

Simon Newman, a Los Angeles private equity executive who had headed the small Catholic university in Emmitsburg, Maryland since December 2014, said controversy over his administration had become too great a distraction for the school.

“I believe it is the right course of action for the Mount at this time,” he said in a statement released Monday (Feb. 29).

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Newman had sought to tighten retention rates and boost Mount St. Mary’s academic standing by setting a policy to weed out students seen as likely to fail within the first weeks of the 2015-2016 school year.

Newman drew fire in January after the Mountain Echo student newspaper quoted him as telling a faculty member opposed to the plan, “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”

He apologized and said his comments were taken out of context. The newspaper did not provide the full quote.

The plan would have used a survey to identify for dismissal 20 to 25 freshmen at the 2,300-student school by a Sept. 25, 2015 deadline.

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The students who left would be eligible for a full tuition refund. Newman’s plan was thwarted since no names were provided by an extended Oct. 2 deadline, the Mountain Echo reported.

Newman also attracted criticism after he fired two faculty members and demoted the provost amid the growing controversy. He later reinstated the professors.

The board of trustees named Karl Einolf, the dean of the school’s Richard J. Bolte Sr School of Business, to be acting president.

Mount St. Mary’s is the second-oldest Catholic university in the United States.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson)

  • Thomas Didymus

    No surprise here. This is what happens when trustees adopt a ‘business model’ and hire a private equity executive to run a college.

    A college isn’t a firm: the aim isn’t to turn a profit for investors. And faculty aren’t service workers hired to please students, who can be fired if they don’t buy into the corporate culture or please customers.

    For two decades this is the direction higher education has taken on the assumption that if only colleges were run like businesses all would be well. So trustees have hired headhunters to recruit CEOs, highly-paid administrators have multiplied like bunnies and taken on the role of Management, supervising and surveilling faculty and colleges have invested in student services, facilities and entertainment. And during that time tuition has gone through the roof and quality has suffered.

    Nothing wrong with business. But a college isn’t a business. And when a college is run like a business it becomes an expensive resort, and students pay.

  • So what else is new? Do you really think that you are the first generation to know this, come on, grow up! A.S. Neil, Thronstein Veblin, one from the so called 19th century , one from the so called 20th. Do you believe you can
    “measure” intelligence, and if so “what kind”?
    Grades are a joke, it’s easier then ever to “GET” and I mean “OBTAIN” them
    now then before. The “teaching” staff which is a far more appropriate title then
    “professor” are “employed” to do a job, teaching, and God forbid commitment
    or knowledge of an actual subject is not necessary. There is no such a “thing”
    as cheating. Let’s face it get rid of grades, get rid of the bumbs you hire and
    most of all get rid of the so called “business model” and just become places
    of learning with point as helping mankind. As far a how you can “measure”
    this take Christ as an example isn’t that we Christians are about?

  • Phil

    I heard of a Lands O’Lakes Conference, before my time, where it was established the Catholic Faith of an academic institution would be secondary to whether the person just knew the material, regardless what they believe. We have seen where that has gone with Protestants, heretics, etc teaching kids instead of religious, priests and devout lay people.

  • William

    So how should colleges be run in order to keep costs reasonable?

    If the faculty do not care to please the students (and their parents who provide most of the funding for a college), who should anyone care about the faculty who cost colleges money?

  • yoh

    Actually most tuition jumps have largely to do with over expansion of administration and access to easy usurious student loan money. This is very much like high risk mortgages drove up housing prices in 2002-2008.

    Ivy League schools have not underwent the dramatic tuition increases one sees at public and small private schools because large parts of the student body don’t need loans.