USM Students Protest In Hattiesburg - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

3/10/04

USM Students Protest In Hattiesburg

On Tuesday night University of Southern Mississippi president Dr. Shelby Thames said he is considering whether to temporarily reinstate two tenured professors. Controversy took hold of the Hattiesburg campus on Friday. when Thames started termination proceedings against the two men. On Tuesday evening hundreds of USM students armed with angry signs aired their grievances in front of the administration building.

"1, 2, 3, 4. What the hell are we paying for?" chanted the crowd. For many like Brian Aust of Ocean Springs, protesting was a first time experience. He went "to support the Southern Miss students and faculty because I don't believe in this and I think it was very wrong."

USM student Tiffany Beckam shouted at the top of her lungs. "I want the integrity of my university to stay and I don't want Dr. Thames to be able to degrade that."

Protestors say they're exercising their first amendment right. The same freedom of speech they believe cost professors Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer their jobs.

Patrice Sims felt so strongly she put her name on a petition to reinstate them.

"It's not fair," said Sims. "I mean they have the right to ask those questions. It's in their tenure. That's why I signed."

English professor Noel Polk spoke to the crowd. He said he was "so energized and proud of the students that there was no way that I could miss this. I think all faculty members appreciate their support."

Shelby Thames says he can't tell students why the professors were let go but the professors can.

Protestor Chelsea Smith thinks she knows why "I think the reason that they have not come forth is probably advised them not to and so I think that's another one of Thames' tactics."

Not everyone went to criticized Shelby Thames.

"I think Dr. Thames has done some wonderful things at this campus and will continue to do so," said student Scott Ford. "He had every right to do what he did with these professors.

Meanwhile the administration says differences in opinion is what higher education is all about."

USM Vice President of Student Affairs Joe Paul said "There's absolutely nothing wrong with students and faculty members being out here and making their feelings known at the top of their lungs. It's a healthy demonstration and their welcome to be out in front of this building as long as they choose to be."

Tomorrow the entire USM faculty will meet to discuss the professors' terminations. Meanwhile, Thames maintains that his actions were justified.

by Danielle Thomas

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