Simon's visit touches on Penn case, enrollment
MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon discusses professor William Penn’s suspension, projected athletic facility renovations and more.
MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon sat down with The State News on Thursday to discuss important topics affecting students, including English professor William Penn and enrollment.
Professor William Penn
Removing Penn from classes after an alleged anti-Republican rant during class earlier this school year was a mutual decision, Simon said. But she would not elaborate on what factors went into the decision, besides to say that it was done quickly.
“When decisions are made, they’re made in the light of the moment and have to be done in a relatively compressed period of time,” she said.
Simon said removing him from the classroom was determined to be in the best interest of the students, but would not explain why.
MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon discusses issues and topics surrounding the university with members of The State News on Sept. 19. Simon's recent trip to Ireland focused on advancing mSU research initiatives. Khoa Nguyen/ The State News
She also said Penn still is employed at MSU and doing research.
“He feels very passionately about his students,” Simon said. “He feels passionately that he needs to be a challenging professor and to do that in ways that cause people to think about what’s around them, which is what universities do.”
She added there is a delicate balance between a rant and challenging students to think about issues.
“People want somebody who is dynamic, who challenges them and maybe is very forceful in the way they state views to cause you to think,” Simon said. “There’s a very fine line between a rant and dynamic, forceful, challenging presentation when what people are challenging is the views that you hold dear.”
Simon said if she were a professor trying to challenge students, she would confront a lot of different things and would want students to feel comfortable enough to ask questions.
“If you believe (the view that I confronted), it would cause you to think about why you believe that,” she said.
Natural decline in enrollment
On enrollment, Simon said the numbers will naturally go down.
There won’t be a need to make admissions more difficult because there were a couple record classes recently and when they graduate, they will be replaced by classes that are closer to about 7,800, such as this year’s class, she said.
There has been some speculation around late graduation and how that affects the overall number, but Simon said late graduation isn’t a huge problem.
“The data that I’ve been provided would suggest that for the students who graduate, the time of graduation is about 4.3 years,” she said. “The question then is, how do we get higher graduation rates?”
Simon added that the decline in students is not expected to negatively impact tuition.