University of Idaho President Scott Green has fired embattled professor Denise Bennett, a decision Bennett indicates she will appeal.
Bennett’s letter of dismissal from Green, dated Sept. 10, indicates her last day at UI is Saturday. Bennett emailed the letter to the Daily News on Tuesday evening.
In the letter, Green indicated he agreed with the university’s Dismissal Hearing Committee recommendation that Bennett’s employment be terminated. The committee concluded in late August that Bennett’s unprofessional conduct and her refusal to accept responsibility for her actions or engage in productive remediation with the university constituted adequate cause for dismissal.
In her response to Green, also emailed by Bennett to the Daily News on Tuesday, Bennett expressed disappointment that neither Green nor any other UI administrator attempted to address her concerns or meet with her face-to-face.
“I believe there are extraordinary circumstances related to my dismissal and am formally requesting an appeal of your decision to the Faculty Appeals Hearing Board,” Bennett wrote.
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.
In Bennett’s response to Green, she indicated the emergency alerts demonstrated “zero good faith effort” on the part of the administration.
“The cruel messages sent to over 13,000 people each day made headlines nationwide ... and irreparably destroyed my career, reputation and way of life,” Bennett wrote. “The calculated alerts ... unfairly characterized me as a drug-addled-gun-wielding-school-shooter, which couldn’t be farther from the truth as I have never fired a gun in my life.”
In the letter of dismissal, Green wrote that he agreed with the dismissal committee’s conclusion the university engaged in an “empathetic and good faith effort to correct deficiencies” in Bennett’s conduct, but the university efforts were met with an unwillingness to engage and a refusal to accept responsibility for actions.
“In particular,” Green wrote to Bennett, “your confrontational refusals to cooperate with colleagues and staff, or to attend meetings where strategic plans and assessments are discussed convince me that your separation from the university is necessary.”
Members of the 2019-20 Faculty Appeals Hearing Board were included in the recipients of Bennett’s email Tuesday night. A timeline for the appeals process is not known at this time.
Additionally, Bennett has issued tort claims for damages in relation to the situation, one against the Moscow Police Department and the other against UI, according to a news release from her attorney last month.