The University of Southern Mississippi has reached a settlement with two professors whose suspensions touched off a storm of protests by faculty and students two months ago. The university will pay sociology professor Frank Glamser and English professor Gary Stringer their salaries for the next two academic years, but the men will not have any teaching or on-campus responsibilities. Former Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson negotiated the settlement after an April 28 hearing ended abruptly. Two days later, the state College Board accepted.
In a written statement, USM President Shelby Thames said that he wished "the matter could have been resolved without going through this process, but the agreement reached Wednesday is in the best interest of Southern Miss."
Thames locked the tenured professors out of their offices March 5 and started firing procedures. Glamser and Stringer said they were suspended for investigating what they thought was a misrepresentation on vice president for research and economic development Angie Dvorak's resume. Dvorak and other officials said she had not falsified her resume, but Stringer used her Social Security number to obtain information about her credentials. Dvorak was not part of the settlement, but the agreement says that USM will recommend that she not pursue litigation against the professors, although it cannot control her actions.
"I said from the beginning, that it was never my intention to cause financial harm to Drs. Glamser and Stringer," Thames said, "but that it is in the best interest of the university that they be removed. Under the terms of the agreement, the professors will not be reinstated or allowed to return to campus." The men cannot criticize USM for two years, and if either Glamser or Stringer is employed elsewhere during that time, they may apply for consultant status, and be paid a small percentage of their salaries. Southern also will continue to support Stringer's research on the poet John Donne unless he transfers the project to another institution.
The John Donne Society, based in Rochester, Mich., issued a statement in March supporting Stringer: "Professor Stringer is valued throughout our academic and scholarly community as a man of great integrity, care, conscientiousness and dedication to the University of Southern Mississippi, to the academic profession, and to all of us who respect truth, academic freedom and honest inquiry."
It is unclear whether the settlement will resolve issues that hundreds of students and some faculty say they have with what they call Thames' autocratic leadership style. On March 10, the senate faculty cast a 430-32 no-confidence vote against Thames, and students led several protests denouncing his administration.