The chairman of the Board of Trustees at Mount St. Mary’s University of Maryland on Friday blamed a “small group of faculty” for what he called the “deliberate mischaracterization” of a retention program that recently landed the institution’s president in hot water.
The president, Simon P. Newman, a former businessman, drew intense scrutiny after the campus newspaper published an article asserting that he had said faculty members shouldn’t think of at-risk students as “cuddly bunnies” but should instead “drown the bunnies.”
He was referring to a plan that encouraged such students to drop out early in their first semester, when they would still be eligible for tuition refunds. His remarks, and the retention strategy, triggered a fierce backlash.
John E. Coyne III, the board chairman, responded to the controversy in a written statement, released late Friday, that detailed the findings of a board investigation into the retention program. He said that the program had taken an “innovative approach” and added that the idea of an “eventual conversation about the student’s own discernment process,” and the refunding of tuition, had been “intended to be in keeping with our Catholic identity.”
He said that while the program had been “beset by several start-up implementation problems,” it should be “continued and become a key part of future retention efforts.”
Mr. Coyne then took aim at a “small group of faculty and recent alums” that he said was “working to undermine and ultimately cause the exit of President Newman.” He said those faculty members had misused the student newspaper “to advance their own personal agenda.”
After the board learned of the student newspaper’s article, the board passed “a unanimous resolution of full confidence” in Mr. Newman, Mr. Coyne said.