UM Fires History Professor Who Criticizes ‘Powerful, Racist Donors’ And ‘Carceral State’Historians in the News
tags: academic freedom, Mass Incarceration, Garrett Felber
During a period of what University of Mississippi faculty are calling a time of increasing paranoia, the university is set to terminate a celebrated professor of history. Today, sources provided the Mississippi Free Press with a copy of a termination letter sent to Dr. Garrett Felber, a tenure-track assistant professor in the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History. Dr. Felber has undertaken an intimate study of the American carceral state and dedicates much of his time to educating and empowering those who are imprisoned in the United States.
History department chair Dr. Noell Wilson publicly praised Felber, author of “Those Who Know Don’t Say:The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement and the Carceral State,” in August after he was awarded a one-year fellowship at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, for which he is on leave from UM for the 2020-2021 academic year. Felber is also the co-author of “The Portable Malcolm X Reader” with the late Manning Marable who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of Malcolm X.
“Garrett is an indefatigable researcher and community builder whose knowledge of the carceral state stems not merely from archival digging, but also from his volunteer engagement with prisons as a teacher,” Wilson told a representative from University of Mississippi News four months ago. “… We are thrilled with this award because it both recognizes his national profile in the field of African American history and provides critical space for him to advance two pioneering interpretive projects.”
But in a Dec. 10 letter, Wilson told Felber that his last day as a tenure-track professor at the University of Mississippi will be Dec. 31, 2021.
“I am writing to inform you that I have recommended to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts that you receive a one-year notice of nonrenewal pursuant to the University of Mississippi’s Termination of Untenured Faculty policy,” Wilson wrote to Felber. “Your employment with the University will end on December 31, 2021, and your employment contract will not be renewed after that date. At the pertinent time, I will notify you of your assigned responsibilities for the fall 2021 academic semester.”
Wilson referred frequently to what she claims is Felber’s refusal to speak with her, concluding her letter: “Respectfully, your effort to dictate or restrict the means by which I communicate with you is untenable.Your repeated refusal to talk with me makes it impossible for me to maintain a productive working relationship with you or supervise your faculty responsibilities.”
The history professor says, however, that he did not refuse to communicate with Dr. Wilson, choosing to do it in writing. Emails between the department chair and professor, who is currently living in Oregon during the pandemic, show that Felber and Wilson communicated multiple times throughout November and December. Wilson also communicated with Felber through an administrative assistant.
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