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Maryland college in turmoil after professors fired over student newspaper report

EMMITSBURG, MD. -- A small Catholic college in Maryland is in turmoil after a report that its president wanted to weed out struggling students quickly to improve the school's standing. Now some teachers have been sent packing.

Ed Egan was a professor at Mount Saint Mary's University in Maryland.

On a day like today, he would normally be on campus.

"Today I'd be teaching my class on the First Amendment," he said.

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Professor Ed Egan.
CBS News

But on Monday he was fired. In a letter a school official said he is "persona non grata" and "not welcome to visit the university's campus," because he violated his "duty of loyalty" to the school.

It all began last month when the student newspaper reported that school President Simon Newman wanted professors to identify struggling students in the first few weeks of school so they could be encouraged to drop out.

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 said. "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."

Egan was the faculty adviser to the school paper and said he's being punished for accurate, but embarrassing reporting by the students.

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President Simon Newman.
CBS News

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."

A petition protesting the firing of Egan and another professor has been signed by about 7,500 professors across the country.

The university declined CBS News' repeated request for an interview, but in a written statement, said the two professors were fired for violating the University's Code of Conduct.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.