UI tenured professor placed on leave

Associate Professor Denise Bennett's office at the University of Idaho Administration Building in Moscow.

Shortly after speaking out about the handling of University of Idaho grant funding, UI associate professor Denise Bennett was placed on administrative leave effective immediately Thursday evening.

The tenured mass media professor has worked at the university since 2006.

Jodi Walker, UI communications director, confirmed Bennett’s leave Friday morning but could not comment further.

Bennett told the Daily News the placement is most likely a result of an email sent to the university’s administration expressing her disappointment with the handling of grant funds as well as the underfunding and lack of maintenance at the Radio-TV Center on the UI campus.

Bennett’s email to university administrators came after she was informed Tuesday of $451.22 in unspent grant money she was unaware of and unable to use.

Bennett had hoped to use the money for a documentary on the experiences of LGBTQ people throughout the state of Idaho. She said the grant money was donated by the PRIDE Foundation.

Bennett said she was told in a Thursday phone call from Sean Quinlan, interim dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, there were two documented instances of her cursing in emails.

She said Quinlan informed her he was granted permission by legal counsel to place her on administrative leave.

According to an email from Walker, the university “does not have a policy on profanity or obscene language.”

Bennett said she told Quinlan to bring official paperwork to her office confirming the leave placement and waited an hour for it to be delivered to her. She then went to his office and he was not there. Bennett said after leaving several voicemail messages, she received a text from Quinlan.

“This text is just to confirm that you have been placed on administrative leave effective immediately,” the text message stated.

On Thursday at 6:13 p.m., Bennett posted on Facebook screenshots of the text conversation with Quinlan.

“The paperwork will be hand delivered to you (Friday) morning. You should know that your accounts have been disabled,” one text message stated.

As of 1:45 p.m. Friday, Bennett had not received any official paperwork regarding her leave from the university.

Bennett said she personally provided maintenance and built sets for the Radio-TV Center, including installing studio LED lights over the recent holiday break that were purchased two years ago.

Bennett said she does not have access to any of her university accounts and does not know the terms and conditions of her leave.

Students and members of the university and Moscow community have been voicing their support of Bennett and their disapproval of her leave placement.

On Friday afternoon, a petition was posted inside the Radio-TV Center urging students to sign in support of Bennett’s reinstatement.

A Facebook user commented on her public post saying, “Denise what exactly happened? Are you at liberty to share because I do have money and I will redirected [sic] from the U of I if this is the case.”

Another user commented, “CLASS (College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences) won’t see a dime out of me and I sure as h*ll won’t be directing students that way with you gone.”

Bennett had 57 comments on her Facebook post of her notice of leave, mostly all in support of the professor.

Emma Takatori can be reached at (208) 883-4638, or by email to editor@dnews.com.

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