Agreement Reached At USM Hearing

The dispute between University of Southern Mississippi President Shelby Thames and the two professors he targeted for firing was worked out in-house Wednesday and the resolution forwarded to the state College Board, a campus hearing was told.

Former Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson, who made the announcement in a surprise end to what was to be a two-day hearing, gave the two professors an opportunity to go public with their side of the dispute that has angered many on the USM staff and triggered student protests.

Thames had testified Wednesday morning. In half-hour testimony each Wednesday afternoon, sociology professor Frank Glamser and English professor Gary Stringer defended their actions and said Thames' motive was one of retaliation.

Anderson said Thames was immediately making a recommendation to the College Board "to resolve this matter between Dr. Stringer and Dr. Glamser.''

He said details of the recommendation will not be made public until it is reviewed and accepted by the College Board, which oversees Mississippi's public universities. He also said those involved would not comment until after the board acts.

Earlier Wednesday, Thames testified that the professors had made misleading statements and acted dishonestly in digging into the qualifications of Angie Dvorak, USM's vice president of research and economic development.

"I find that there's many untruths in what they told me,'' Thames said.

Thames and attorneys for the university indicated the real reason the professors initiated the investigation was their dislike of Thames' administration.

Attorneys for the professors argued it was Thames, not the professors, who had acted unprofessionally in seeking to dismiss the two.

Jim Keith, a Jackson attorney for the university, said Glamser and Stringer began their investigation of Dvorak months before the appearance of an unsigned package that contained documents questioning Dvorak's resume.

Keith said information on what the professors were doing became known to university officials during a review of their e-mails. He said the college has a right to monitor the e-mails under its policies.

School officials have said Dvorak's credentials were checked and found to be correct, and she remains on the job.

Thames suspended Glamser and Stringer and locked them out of their campus offices on March 5.

Keith told the hearing that Glamser and Stringer began checking on Dvorak's background as early as May 2003, before the unsigned package claiming that Dvorak had embellished her resume was placed under Glamser's door. He said the e-mails support that.

Earlier, the two professors said the probe didn't start until last December, after Thames declined to act on information given him concerning the matter.

Thames told Anderson that information in the e-mails monitored by the university and the information in the package sent to Glamser were similar.

"The theme is continuous and contiguous,'' Thames said.

Thames said Stringer misrepresented himself to University of Kentucky school officials by insinuating that he was chairman of the English department and that he was part of a committee that was considering Dvorak for a position at USM.

Thames said the two acted dishonestly with malicious intent and that Glamser even implied to the editor of the school newspaper that he would help her get recommendation letters if she reported on Dvorak's credentials.

Thames read affidavits by several Kentucky officials stating they told Stringer that Dvorak's credentials were not embellished. Thames said the professors failed to include that information in their reports.

An attorney representing the professors said that Stringer asked a friend at another university about Dvorak. He said Stringer also sent a letter to higher education officials in Kentucky asking how tenure is determined.

The attorney said Stringer never asked for personal information about Dvorak, but Thames testified that the e-mails showed the professors had sent out Dvorak's Social Security number trying to get information.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)