After fierce controversy during his short-lived term at Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland, president Simon Newman has stepped down, the school's board announced Feb. 29.
“I am proud of what I have been able to achieve in a relatively short time, particularly in helping the University chart a clear course toward a bright future,” Newman said in a statement from the university.
“I care deeply about the school and the recent publicity relating to my leadership has become too great of a distraction to our mission of educating students,” he said, adding that he believes this decision to be the “right course of action for the Mount at this time.”
Immediately following Newman's resignation, the university appointed Karl Einolf, Ph.D., as acting president.
Einolf is the Dean of the Richard J. Bolte, Sr., School of Business at Mount St. Mary's and had previously served as a professor of finance and the Director of the Mount's Honors program. He graduated from Penn State and John Hopkin's University, and earned his doctorate from Lehigh University.
Mount St. Mary’s University, the second oldest Catholic university in the United States, hired Newman as president in 2015. Previously a private-equity chief executive officer and entrepreneur, Newman brought his business experience to the university.
But the new president also sparked a media frenzy over his comments on struggling students and for firing two faculty members — one with tenure — soon after his role as president began.
Since late January, Newman had been the focus of controversy. The school's student newspaper ran a story about the president’s alleged plan to pursue the dismissal of 20-25 freshman students based on results from a survey predicting their future success at the school. A number of faculty members reportedly objected to the plan.
In the article, a faculty member quotes Newman as saying, “This is hard for you because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t. You just have to drown the bunnies…put a Glock to their heads.”
Newman also reportedly called some students “Catholic jihadis” and had planned to belittle the university's Catholic roots, saying “Catholic doesn't sell.”
According to the Washington Post, Mount St. Mary's faculty had voted 87-3 for Newman to resign by Feb. 15, but he did not do so. Further outrage over the situation eventually resulted in Newman reinstating the fired faculty.
Among Newman's critics were faculty, alumni, and students. Newman's new leadership also raised eyebrows from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education — the organization that accredits the university.
Despite Newman's experience with the school, the Board of Trustees and some students stood by their new president. The board of directors had called Newman's words “unfortunate,” but continued their support of his leadership.
It wasn't until Feb. 29 that the university officially announced Newman's resignation. “The board is grateful to President Newman for his many accomplishments over the past year,” said Chairman of the Board of Trustees, John Coyne, in a statement from the university. “We thank him for his service.”