EMMITSBURG, Md. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The head of a Catholic university in Maryland is facing criticism for belittling the school's Catholic identity.
Simon Newman, president of Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, is coming under fire for allegedly working to undermine the Catholicity of the liberal arts college by openly criticizing faithful students, employees and school tradition.
Multiple students, faculty and alumni have reported Newman referring to more traditional students as "Catholic jihadis" and saying Mount St. Mary's would not "get customers to come" if the school continued marketing itself as a Catholic university, as "Catholic doesn't sell."
According to David McGinley, a member of the school's College of Liberal Arts Advisory Board and university alumnus, Newman would repeatedly make "derogatory comments towards Mount students," including statements insinuating students who had been homeschooled were "judgmental" and may cause "trouble" for fellow freshmen who party.
McGinley claims Newman shows "a lack of appreciation for or desire to continue or further Catholic identity in any regards to what one would call traditional." The president seems to believe, McGinley continues, that "Catholicism has lost its relevance."
A current administrative employee who preferred to remain anonymous asserts that Newman commented there were "too many bleeding crucifixes" in the employee's office. "I have a broken crucifix, and I have a crucifix that is done in limestone sculpture," the employee explained.
Reports from other members of the faculty assert Newman has repeatedly denigrated the crucifix and has a bad habit of using profanity.
Professor Thane Naberhaus, who was recently fired from his tenured position at the university, notes the school website's main page does not mention anywhere that Mount St. Mary's is a Catholic university. "That is Simon Newman's vision for Mount Saint Mary's right there, encapsulated in that one webpage," Naberhaus asserts.
"He was kind of dividing up our student body and seeing a certain fraction of them," Naberhaus said. "He seemed to think that there was a sizeable fraction of our campus that fell into that camp, Catholic jihadis, and I never was sure exactly what he meant by that, but he was definitely using that phrase."
Naberhaus' removal from the Mount St. Mary's faculty is part of an ongoing scandal involving Newman that began in late January. In an article concerning the president's plan to dismiss around 25 freshman based on survey results that predicted they would not be successful at the school, the student-run school newspaper Mountain Echo quoted Newman's response to faculty who didn't believe survey results justified removal from the school. According to the newspaper, Newman answered, "There will be some collateral damage."
Further into the meeting, the Mountain Echo reports that Newman remarked, "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."
In a message sent to students following the removal of the two teachers, the school failed to offer an explanation for the firings, but instead asserted the school leadership has "a plan in place to be certain that the classes for which they were responsible will be taught by other qualified faculty and the students will be advised by well-qualified people."
A few days earlier the provost of the university was removed from his position after raising concerns about Newman's plan to eliminate students based on the survey.
Around 75 alumni have written a public letter to the university decrying their recent behavior and calling the current condition an "atmosphere of hostile takeover."
The university has not publicly spoken concerning the claims that Newman is attacking the Catholic identity of the school.