29 Jul Professor Reaches Settlement with University of Mississippi After Wrongful Termination
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 29, 2021
Contact: Patrick Taylor, Mississippi Center for Justice, firstname.lastname@example.org
Since the University of Mississippi’s controversial decision to terminate the tenure-track contract of History Professor Garrett Felber in December of 2020, the University and Felber have reached a settlement for a confidential amount that avoids a lawsuit and the lengthy legal battle that would have ensued.
Felber’s career as a teacher and activist has included organizing with incarcerated people and speaking out against white supremacy and the prison industrial complex. He said, “I was terminated because of my public statements, including legitimate criticisms of the University. Rather than go to court and seek reinstatement, I have chosen to move on and continue my work from a position outside this University.”
Felber was represented during the negotiations by Attorney Rob McDuff of the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) and Attorney Naomi R. Shatz of the Boston law firm of Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP, which specializes in defending the rights of students and teachers.
“We believe that Dr. Felber’s termination violated the First Amendment,” said McDuff. “This all went down after his very pointed criticisms of the University. The reasons given for the University’s decision don’t hold up and Dr. Felber had an excellent record as a teacher and a faculty member, including stellar reviews from his Department Chair. But litigation takes a long time and Dr. Felber’s decision to focus on continuing his important work in the future makes total sense.”
Shatz agreed. “We are concerned by recent instances of universities across the country ignoring and violating their faculty members’ rights to free speech and academic freedom. Professors like Dr. Felber have a constitutional right to speak out about injustices they see in their institutions. The University’s decision has deprived it not only of an excellent professor, but of a valued member of its community.”
Although the University’s policies require it to honor Dr. Felber’s contract until the end of 2021, he has accepted a faculty fellowship at Yale University in American Studies at the Center for the Study of Race, Indigeneity, and Transnational Migration that is effective this summer. Felber said that despite his departure from the University, he will continue his work with many of those he met during his time in Mississippi. “My employment for the University of Mississippi brought me to the state where I now consider many organizers and colleagues part of my family. Terminating that appointment does not end my commitment to fighting alongside them to abolish white supremacy and state violence.”
MCJ also represents another University of Mississippi faculty member, Professor James Thomas of the Sociology Department, who was wrongly accused of violating state law by Mississippi State Auditor Shad White after Thomas joined a national protest to call attention to racism and injustice. “MCJ was founded to promote racial and economic justice and is proud to defend the free speech rights of those who speak out against racism and mass incarceration,” said MCJ President and CEO Vangela M. Wade.