‘Our Last Refuge’: UM Faculty ‘Terrified’ As Officials Target Ombuds In Bid To Unmask WhistleblowersHistorians in the News
tags: University of Mississippi, academic freedom, academic labor
Members of the University of Mississippi faculty fear the school’s effort to root out whistleblowers who exposed issues of racism in the administration could also expose private information about employees and graduate students who have confided concerns to the university ombudsman.
Two faculty members told the Mississippi Free Press that they worry the university could be laying the groundwork to eliminate Ombudsman Paul Caffera’s office, which one described as a “last refuge” for employees.
“If they took that Ombuds office away, there would be nowhere for faculty to go. Nowhere,” said Aaron Jones, whose name has been changed to protect his or her identity. “That’s the only place we have on campus. And I’m very fearful that they’re going to—I know they’re coming for Paul.”
The mounting disquiet comes as school officials are attempting to compel the ombudsman to turn over information that they hope will lead to the whistleblowers who played a pivotal role in this publication’s “UM Emails” series. The initial three-part exposé, published in August, revealed a tangled web in which UM officials catered to certain wealthy donors’ often sexist and racist predispositions in order to procure money for the school.
But university faculty members, who had nothing to do with that saga but have sought the ombudsman’s services about other issues, say they worry the effort to identify and punish the whistleblowers could expose their identities, too.
“I think we’re all worried the university is going to get a hold of his communications and that our names will be revealed,” Jones told the Mississippi Free Press.
The faculty members previously confided to the Office of Ombuds, they said, partly to avoid professional retaliation from superiors if they brought matters forward elsewhere on campus.
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