University of Southern Mississippi president Shelby Thames withstood shouts and jeers Monday morning as he answered criticism for firing two long time professors.
Thames put Dr. Frank Glamser and Dr. Gary Stringer on notice Friday that they would be fired at the end of the month. Thames' critics say he's creating a climate of fear at the University.
Monday, Thames made no apologies for the firings, but did try to explain them.
"The decision to initiate termination proceedings with Dr. Gary Stringer and Dr. Frank Glamser this past Friday was not made lightly or hastily. This matter was thoroughly investigated over six weeks. The initiation of termination proceedings was based upon solid grounds," Dr. Shelby Thames said.
Thames says he can't disclose the evidence against the two professors, but said he hopes the professors will demand an open hearing so everyone knows. That did little to calm his critics.
"Should we be worried about our degrees because we question the policies of the university? I don't think so. They shouldn't be worried about their jobs because they have a question about the people they work for," student Pamela Packer said.
"It just seemed like everybody just had a fire lit under them and it just something that we need to do because we don't know who might lose their job next," student Chad Powell said.
Some demonstrators called for President Thames's dismissal. Though he wouldn't discuss specifics about Professors Glamser and Stringer, Thames did have criticism for another faculty member.
"Dr. Doug Chambers, a history professor, cancelled his classes this morning and told his students if they participated in the student protest scheduled for tomorrow and wrote a paper on it, they would receive extra class credit," Thames said.
"I was called to jury service at the courthouse. I had to be there at 8:30 this morning. I had my teaching assistant go my class and say class was cancelled. I gave them an extra credit opportunity and to claim and to impugn my character as if I did something wrong is typical. It's a damn lie and I don't appreciate it," Chambers responded.
After the meeting, students vowed to continue working to get rid of Shelby Thames.
"I think it reflects horribly on the university. In fact, up to the point that I'm now considering attending grad school somewhere else, rather than attend school here under this administration," student Eugene Chapman said.
President Thames said he believes the American Association of University Professors is fueling the controversy at USM. Students are meeting Monday night on campus to firm up plans for a protest set for Tuesday.