State Auditor Investigating Ole Miss Professor Who Participated In StrikeBreaking News
tags: Mississippi, labor, academic freedom, #ScholarStrike
State Auditor Shad White is pushing Ole Miss to fire one of its professors, James Thomas, saying Thomas illegally participated in a two-day strike last week.
White sent a letter to Ole Miss Chancellor Glenn Boyce on Monday describing a "work stoppage" the sociology professor participated in on Sept. 8 and 9. The nationwide event was called "Scholar Strike," and involved professors and others in academia halting their classes and other duties to protest racism, police brutality and other racial injustice issues.
In the letter, White, a Republican who attended Ole Miss for his undergraduate degree, described Mississippi code that bans strikes or any other "concerted work stoppage." He told Boyce the university should recoup money it paid Thomas for those days of work and pursue terminating the professor in court. Thomas was granted tenure last year, which gives him additional job security.
In an interview, White confirmed his office has been gathering documents and sent two agents to Thomas' home last week. Thomas, he said, "wasn't interested" in talking.
Thomas declined to comment Tuesday about the situation. An Ole Miss spokesperson said the university does not comment on personnel matters. In the letter, White thanked Boyce and the university for being "very cooperative in this matter."
White said he began pursuing the case after seeing Thomas post on Twitter about Scholar Strike. He said he also found an email Thomas had sent to his students about the strike that "was circulating on the internet."
Thomas posted a number of times about the strike on Twitter. "I have strong feelings about this — if you have tenure, your #ScholarStrike activity needs to be a work stoppage," he wrote on Sept. 6. "Tell your students you're not working." He later tweeted he'd emailed his students saying he would not be available for the two days.
Several days later, he suggested he hadn't totally halted all work: "100 percent of my job requires time spent thinking," Thomas wrote. "Thinking before writing. Thinking while writing. Thinking before teaching. Thinking while teaching. If I'm thinking I'm working."
Thomas, whose Twitter handle is @Insurgent_Prof, has long been a controversial figure at Ole Miss, ruffling the feathers of some of the university's conservative alumni as well as the state's Republican elected officials.
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