The University of Mississippi is moving ahead with its termination of Garrett Felber, assistant professor of history, its provost said in a formal response to the American Historical Association. The group inquired about Felber’s controversial termination, which many of his supporters have called politically motivated or retaliatory, given that his primary offense is insisting on emailing with his department chair during his research leave instead of videochatting with her.
In his letter to the AHA, Noel Wilkin, Mississippi’s provost, defended Felber’s chair’s decision to fire him, effective next academic year. Wilkin said the chair, Noell Wilson, “was doing exactly what all universities expect their chairs to do — ensure that faculty members are willing and able to follow the rules and processes involved in securing external funding that commit the institution to a financial agreement. In fact, I respect that Dr. Wilson chose to make a very difficult recommendation when she lost confidence that an untenured faculty member would act in good faith and be responsive to her repeated efforts to help him succeed.”
Wilkin said Felber wasn’t so much fired as given a 12-month notice of nonrenewal. While faculty members “clearly have a role in assessing the teaching, research and service of their colleagues,” he said, “this decision had nothing to do with teaching, research, or service. Therefore, faculty were not consulted regarding Dr. Wilson’s recommendation.”
Wilkin also denied that the decision was “motivated by or in any way related to the topics of Dr. Felber’s research, including the history of the carceral state and race, or his work with those who are incarcerated. We have other faculty members on our campus who have been engaged in this work since before he was hired and they will continue to do so moving forward.” He also suggested that the AHA failed “to appreciate that there may be other relevant data that cannot be broadly shared due to the confidential nature of personnel issues.”
Felber said via email that no confidential “personnel issues” had ever been brought to his attention, but he offered no other comment. Many scholars have pledged not to speak at Ole Miss until he is reinstated.