Mississippi burning

The University of Southern Mississippi (which happens to be the alma mater of a few of my relatives) has been the subject of controversy lately. University president Shelby Thames fired tenured professors Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer in the middle of a semester, allegedly in retaliation for instigating a formal investigation by the American Association of University Professors into the professional qualifications of Vice President Angeline Dvorak.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article that details the story. It began on a December 11 afternoon, when a manila envelope was left anonymously in sociology professor Glamser’s office:


The envelope contained several documents purporting to show that Angeline Dvorak, vice president for research and economic development, had lied about her academic background. Specifically, an anonymous letter attached to the documents said that Ms. Dvorak had never been an associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky, as was claimed in news releases and a biography on Southern Mississippi’s Web site. (The identity of the person who left the documents is unknown.)
Glamser consulted economics professor George H. Carter, and agreed to send the evidence to Thames, who passed the buck to director of resources and risk management John Hanbury. The university seemed to be doing nothing about the matter. Glamser, who serves as president of the local chapter of AAUP, approached Stringer, an English professor, to lead a panel to investigate the matter.
Stringer concluded that “Ms. Dvorak’s credentials, as listed in two news releases, a curriculum vitae, and a biography on the university’s Web site, were misleading.” The central issue revolves around her relationship with the University of Kentucky:
Here is an excerpt from the biography on Southern Mississippi’s Web site: “Before initiating her work in Mississippi, Dvorak served as president and CEO of Ashland Community College in Ashland, Kentucky. She concurrently held a tenured academic appointment as an associate professor at the University of Kentucky.” The two news releases use similar language, and another curriculum vitae, obtained by a local television station, lists her as an associate professor of English at the “University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky.”
She was tenured at a time when a single system governed both the University of Kentucky and the community colleges. Now the two are governed by separate boards, each with its own standards for tenure. Why is this important?
For professors at Southern Mississippi, that is not a minor detail because Ms. Dvorak, who did not achieve tenure at a four-year institution, now has influence over tenure decisions at the university.
On March 4, Hanbury inquired of Glamser and Stringer about the AAUP investigation. Under advice of counsel, the two professors refused to answer. Thames fired them that evening and had the locks to their offices changed.
Since then USM has been rocked with protests, and the faculty members voted by huge margins to call for the reinstatement of Glamser and Stringer and to support an earlier no-confidence vote by the Faculty Senate.

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10 comments

  1. Steve

    I have a story of the gentility of Southern Miss myself. I taught a class the summer of 1962 with approximately forty kids aged 5 to 10 how to read and write. I even exposed them to the idea that not all books had many pages missing and weren’t falling apart.
    The pride and joy of this white yankee, then called a “liberal” (huh?!) was a wondrous 1959 ORANGE VW Beetle. Another volunteer that summer and I drove into town, picked up a few books in the old bookstore (think it’s now gone) and placed a few calls home on their (amazing!) reliable phones. We came out 45 minutes later to discover that some young southern gentlemen, the hope for the future of the South, had broken out every window in my precious Bug and pounded on it a bit elsewhere with baseball bats.
    They apparently resented that certain northern niggar lovers took their summers to provide the barest education in the 3Rs that they saw no point in providing. Our “school” was an old barn as they saw no point in providing a school building for niggars.
    It was a long drive home (to Ohio at the time) with all the windows broken out of my beloved Bug and not having the money to replace the glass I ultimately had to sell it. Forgive me but that’s my strongest and clearest memory of Southern Miss. But it was otherwise an interesting summer.

  2. Dave J

    Steve, I remember my (black) Con Law professor describing a family trip from their home in New Orleans to visit relatives in Charleston. The quote that sticks in my mind was: “You have no idea how evil Mississippi used to be. Just try to think how bad it must have been for someone to actually say ‘thank God we made it to Alabama.'” I cannot imagine.

  3. Alan K. Henderson

    I suspect that at the Souther Miss of today, relations between blacks and whites are in better shape than those between educrat elitists and the politically incorrect.

  4. Alan K. Henderson

    And as far as North-South relations go, the window repair business isn’t what it used to be 🙂
    Interesting that a story about academic intolerance, normally associated with the radical Left, should trigger memories of redneck intolerance, normally associated with the reactionary Right. Nowadays, the former exhibits far more vitriol and is far more politically abusive than the latter. It would be safer for me (a white guy) to take a black woman on a date in Vicksburg than to distribute hard copies of my right-of-center blog postings at any major university.

  5. Dave J

    “It would be safer for me (a white guy) to take a black woman on a date in Vicksburg than to distribute hard copies of my right-of-center blog postings at any major university.”
    I don’t doubt it a bit. With respect to what I said at least, it’s just what Steve’s comment got me to thinking about.

  6. Steve

    Alan – I quite agree. The campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, its bookstore/student union, in 1962 was a good deal different place than today. I’m certain of that from knowing people today from Mississippi. The world, in terms of Mississippi, was a different place in the 1960’s.
    I also remember earlier auto trips with my family in the 1950’s when I was scared to death to go into the white bathroom even though I was white. The whole atmosphere I found in the South terrified me and my sister. Our parents basically told us to be quiet, look straight ahead, and ignore anything said to us.
    My parents, I might note, were anything but “liberals.” They had no influence on the near paralyzing fear my sister and I had in coming into contact with the local citizenry. My father finally gave up and started stopping along the highway where she and I could “go” when we had to.
    In 1962 it simply seemed wrong that certain children couldn’t obtain an education, their parents couldn’t vote, and other such things simply for the stupid reason of the color of their skin.
    The sixties, I might note, were not what they were cracked up to be. The LSD heads, hippies, and flower children grabbed the headlines, but if you look at original movies of the demonstration at the 1968 Democrat Convention in Chicago, for example, you’ll see the TV cameras concentrating on the hippies in the front ranks, but mostly ignoring the 90% or so of plain vanilla college kids and young adults behind them. I know. I was there for that too and I think 90% a reasonable assessment amidst the tear gas and trying to escape the cops with their clubs.
    I had a couple of friends who went to Canada to evade the draft, even had one friend who was at Woodstock (poor guy got sick after two days and was still in hospital long after it ended). Me, after deciding to demonstrate against the war for two years, I enlisted after finishing my degrees and spent a year in Nam. Was not in a pleasant place there much of the time.
    The 1960’s produced more upwardly mobile yuppies and moms who wanted to have 2.3 adorable children than flower children. Burning bras was a novelty that wouldn’t catch on for a decade or two. Alas, even the press in those days “covered” the more “interesting” stories. And on the whole the press today is much more afflicted by anxiety and stress because the world, in too many ways, has more hate and is hotter than it was in 1962. Beirut, Iraq, Somalia, the Balkans….the press has their hands full now. I find it to be of little surprise there are fewer journalists. They appear to receive neither the training nor have the opportunity to become a “journalist.”
    58,000 of us died in Nam and more than a few Aussies died there too, and that pretty much was the end of American “allies” in Vietnam. That’s about the only “win” we had. The world had far more demonstrators against Nam than Iraq. We had no Pearl Harbor. There was no 911. Some things get better, some worse.
    PS With a few oddball exceptions few “liberals” own Glocks and M1A rifles. 😉
    (my apologies Alan if I hijacked your interesting topic)

  7. kat

    I am a senior at Southern Miss and can honestly say that over the last two years I have never seen any racial isssues arrise on campus. The Southern Miss I know is a great school with the exception of Shelby Thames.

  8. ram

    As you may know, in 1995, a retired, black washer-woman named Oseola McCarty left a portion of her life savings to Southern Miss. The resulting publicity was a windfall for the university, worth much more than the actual donation from McCarty. After her death, a group of students began a successful campaign to have the new dormitory on campus named for Miss McCarty. As one of the first acts of his new presidency, Dr. Thames spoke at the dedication of the building. He pronounced her first name “Oleosa” and her last name “McCarthy”. But that was before he hired Lisa Mader to speak for him