A panel of five University of Idaho faculty members recommended Friday that embattled journalism professor Denise Bennett be fired on the grounds of unprofessional conduct, according to a report from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Bennett, a tenured mass media professor who has worked at the university since 2006, was placed on administrative leave effective Jan. 24 after she sent an email to university administrators about what she said was the university’s poor handling of grant funding and lack of maintenance at the Radio-TV Center on the Moscow campus.
The following week, she hosted an expletive-laden Facebook livestream in which she criticized UI administration and read aloud from a letter detailing the reasons she was placed on paid leave.
The day after the livestream event, UI officials issued a university-wide emergency alert stating Bennett had been barred from campus and alleging she had recently admitted to using meth and had access to firearms.
The alert advised students to call 911 if Bennett was seen on campus. Capt. Tyson Berrett, who heads the campus division of the Moscow Police Department, said the alert was refering to a Nov. 4 police report detailing a domestic dispute involving Bennett in which she allegedly told police officers she had used meth the day before.
The Chronicle reported her alleged drug use had no bearing on the panel’s recommendation to dismiss Bennett.
The firearms mentioned in the report were being loaded into a car. Berrett said at the time that Bennett was not considered to be violent or dangerous. The alert came about an hour before a planned student-led sit-in at the university’s Administration Building protesting Bennett’s suspension. The protest was postponed following the alert.
A release from Bennett’s attorneys states she has issued a civil suit against the Moscow Police Department and another against UI related to circumstances surrounding her case.
According to the Chronicle report, the panel’s recommendation was sent to new UI President Scott Green, who will make the final decision regarding Bennett’s employment.