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​Catholic college reinstates 2 fired professors after scandal goes national

Snow covers the ground in front of Bradley Hall at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016.

Bill Green/The Frederick News-Post via AP

EMMITSBURG, Md. -- The embattled president of a small Catholic university said Friday he's reinstating two faculty members he fired this week amid an uproar over a plan to identify freshmen most likely to fail and offer them refunds if they chose to leave.

Mount St. Mary's University President Simon Newsman said in a statement Friday afternoon that philosophy professor Thane Naberhaus and law instructor Edward Egan would be reinstated immediately.

They were dismissed Monday, and the school's provost was demoted, after an investigation into the student newspaper's report that Newman had likened struggling freshman to baby rabbits that should be killed.

Some faculty members resisted and the school paper The Moutain Echo reported that Newman told them: "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."

Many students and faculty were outraged.

"It's not just the words, but it's the plan the words described," Egan told CBS News. "Weeding out students because we think they might not do well in order to make the numbers look better? That's not Mount Saint Mary's."

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Professor Ed Egan.
CBS News

Egan was the faculty adviser to the school paper and said he's being punished for accurate, but embarrassing reporting by the students. But he said he did not tell them what to write.

"I did not ... no. Anybody on campus who knows the students knows that nobody would manipulate these students," Egan said. "They are independent, strong, bright people."

Egan said he received a letter from a school official which called him "persona non grata" and said he was "not welcome to visit the university's campus" because he violated his "duty of loyalty" to the school.

Newman has apologized for the comment. He says he's committed to mending his relationship with the faculty and wants to "make a new beginning as a unified team."