University of Southern Mississippi President Shelby Thames has created a council of faculty, staff members and students to improve lines of communications at the college. The President's University Council will not replace any existing organizations.
Thames said Wednesday that creating the group was suggested after a meeting this week with USM's five college deans.
Also Thursday, the university said Jack Hanbury, USM's risk manager, has resigned and will be on administrative leave through June 30.
The Hattiesburg American newspaper said the announcement by USM spokeswoman Lisa Mader came about 24 hours after reports began circulating on campus that Hanbury was no longer employed by the university.
Hanbury, who came to USM a year ago from a private law practice in Kentucky, had handled the investigation that resulted in an attempt to fire tenured professors Frank Glamser and Gary Stringer.
The university reached a settlement with them April 28 that was accepted by the College Board this past Friday. Thames suspended Glamser and Stringer in March and had said he intended to fire the professors.
Thames' actions resulted in no confidence votes by the university's Faculty Senate and the majority of the school's faculty members.
Thames said he welcomed the deans' proposal for establishing the council and looked forward to "working with this group of faculty, staff and students in advancing our university. I believe this is one of the first steps toward moving our university past the issues of the last few months.''
Faculty Senate President Myron Henry said more communication is better.
"But I think at this particular time one could interpret this as an effort to have voices different from the elected representatives of faculty and staff,'' Henry said. "I think one can't help but be a bit of a skeptic on the timing and the purposes at this stage.
"I think if the Thames administration is committed to reaching out, it ought to reach out to those who have dissented legitimately on some of the views of this administration,'' Henry said.
The Faculty Senate meets Friday at the USM-Gulf Park campus to discuss asking the College Board to order the school not to monitor e-mails.
During the hearing a week ago, Thames said he ordered the two professors' e-mails monitored as part of an investigation into their activities in questioning the academic background of USM vice president Angie Dvorak.
Meanwhile, College Board member Virginia Shanteau Newton has called for a special meeting of the board to discuss the situation at USM.
"I think that, obviously, the situation between the administration and the faculty has escalated,'' Newton said Wednesday. "I think it's created a dreadful environment and climate on campus, and I think we need to resolve that situation.''
Newton is the lone USM graduate on the current board and was the only member to vote against appointing Thames as president two years ago.
On Saturday, four new board members appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour will begin their terms. Newton said the dismissal hearing did not resolve the situation at USM.
"I think the situation is getting worse and I think its incumbent upon us as trustees to address the situation,'' she said.