University president’s plan to cut struggling freshmen: ‘You just have to drown the bunnies’
Mount St. Mary’s University President Simon Newman used an especially graphic metaphor to defend a plan to cut 20 to 25 freshmen from the school every year, according to the student newspaper, the Mountain Echo.
“This is hard for [professors] because you think of the students as cuddly bunnies, but you can’t,” Newman reportedly said during a conversation with faculty members last September. “You just have to drown the bunnies … put a Glock to their heads.”
The discussion concerned Newman’s plan to “cull the class” by dismissing freshmen designated as struggling by Sept. 25, in order to help the Maryland-based university’s student retention rate. US colleges and universities submit their enrollment statistics after the date in question, which is then used to calculate their retention rates.
Newman reportedly made the remark to Greg Murry, director of Mount St. Mary’s Veritas Symposium. Another faculty member, John Larrivee, corroborated the Mountain Echo’s account to the Washington Post.
According to Larrivee, Newman asked another professor to identify students who would be “unlikely to make it” at the school based on their performance in the opening weeks of school. The professor responded that it would mean expelling students who could use the symposium to acclimate themselves to college life.
“There will be some collateral damage,” Newman reportedly replied.
The plan would reportedly have involved a survey provided by the Symposium during freshman orientation every August.
“It is based on some of the leading thinking in the area of personal motivation and key factors that determine motivation, success, and happiness,” the survey’s introduction reads. “We will ask you some questions about yourself that we would like you to answer as honestly as possible. There are no wrong answers.”
However, the Mountain Echo reported that the answers would actually have been used to determine which students would be kicked out of the school.
The plan was never implemented, because Newman failed to receive the list of names by an Oct. 2 deadline established by Murray’s office.
Newman became the school’s president in December 2014 after working as an entrepreneur and private equity fund executive. His school biography does not list any prior experience as an educator. He also told the Post that the tone of the Mountain Echo’s report was “highly inaccurate.”
“I’ve probably done more swearing here than anyone else,” Newman said. “It wasn’t intended to be anything other than, ‘Some of these conversations you may need to have with people are hard.'”
Newman said that one of his goals is to double the school’s enrollment — currently around 2,300 students — within the next decade.