Terminated: DSU community members show support for fired music faculty, seek answers from administration

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Music Department Chair Glenn Webb and Professor of Music Ken Peterson, both tenured, were terminated from Dixie State University on March 2, while students and community members gathered in support outside of the Burns Arena. 

Webb and Peterson met with Michael Lacourse, the vice president for academic affairs, to discuss their future at the institution. 

Lacourse sent an email to all DSU faculty and said both Webb and Peterson were terminated according to DSU Policy 371: 4.1, 4.1.3 and 4.1.4. 

DSU Policy 371:
-4.1: Dismissal for cause may be imposed on a faculty member in the following circumstances:
   -4.1.3: Serious misconduct or unethical behavior.
   -4.1.4: Serious violation of university rules and regulations.

“I want you to know the decision to terminate a professor is never made lightly,” Lacourse said. “…We make every effort to support, invest in and advocate for our faculty and staff.” 

Both Webb and Peterson said they will appeal the administration’s decision to terminate them.

Peterson addresses his letter of dismissal

After releasing his Notice of Dismissal and Termination of Appointment to Dixie State University faculty and on Facebook, Peterson has received an outpour of support. Peterson said he chose to release his dismissal notice to the public for transparency.

“I would see comments that there was some mystery behind the dismissal and this and that,” Peterson said. “It was the best thing to do to let people see for themselves.”

Peterson’s letter has multiple references to Mark Houser, assistant professor of theater arts. Houser has not responded to the Dixie Sun News’ request for comment. 

Peterson’s letter of dismissal was also written by Michael Lacourse, vice president of administration. When asked to defend or comment on the letter, Lacourse sent the same email he distributed to all faculty on Friday. 

Peterson said he is choosing to appeal DSU’s decision to terminate him because it’s his right as a tenured faculty member, and he wants to present his side of things. Peterson declined to comment his thoughts on the reasonings for termination in his dismissal letter but said he would be providing local news organizations with a written statement within the next couple of days.

“I am just overwhelmed with the outpouring of kindness and love and support,” he said. “I’ve been genuinely surprised and brought to tears by the wonderful things people are doing and saying on my behalf, regardless of what happens. It’s something I won’t ever forget.”

Webb didn’t release his letter of dismissal and declined to comment on whether or not he’ll be releasing a written statement to the media. 

Webb too has received an outpour of support from students and community members.

“Work through everything that comes to you to achieve your educational goals,” Webb said. “Don’t let despair or external factors deter you from achieving your goals.”

Students speak out, want answers from administration

Multiple DSU alumni who support Webb and Peterson have spoken up to voice their concerns with the administration and their decision to terminate the professors.

Students came together and created a Facebook page called Support Concert for Dr. Glenn Webb and Dr. Ken Peterson. There will be a concert honoring Peterson and Webb on March 26 at 7 p.m. at Desert Hills High School. 

Derek Baker, an alumnus from St. George, said Webb was the most influential professor he had at DSU, and even after he switched from a music major to a criminal justice major, Webb was always there to advise him and help him reach his goals and get his degree. 

Baker said when the community first found out Webb was put on leave, it was in shock. He said Webb is the reason the music department is what it is, and the community, as a whole, couldn’t believe what was happening. 

“He is the epitome of grace under pressure,” Baker said. “Pretty much all of the music degrees they have, the accreditation that the music department has, he has kind of been the leader on all of that. He has kind of shaped the music department into what it is today.”

Baker also said he is confused as to why two prominent professors with tenure were fired when, at most, they should have been suspended. 

“These two professors were the pillars of the music department…and in removing both of them for what seems to be pretty ridiculous reasons, just kind of shakes my faith in the administration,” Baker said. 

Jalee Scott, an alumna and return student at DSU, also had strong concerns about the conditions under which Webb and Peterson were terminated. She said she has done extensive research on the policies and procedures for DSU and is upset with the inconsistencies she found.

“I identified numerous policies and procedures that were not followed in this case,” Scott said. “Most of it has to do with not being notified of any complaints against you. Ken’s list has a number of complaints with no names attached and accuser he can face, and that’s in his rights as a faculty member to be able to face his accuser. He cannot.”

Scott said she is disappointed in the administration, and she wants them to know that.

“They did wrong,” Scott said. “That’s the gist of it. They could have handled this any number of ways…and we’re not going to let this go; we’re not because this is our Dixie. I am Dixie. Ken and Glenn are Dixie.”

Students have also been showing support for Peterson and Webb by leaving reviews for DSU on its Facebook page. Reviews were later turned off, but reviews have been left on Google. 

One review by Mitchell Reber said: “This rating doesn’t reflect the collective university. I am saddened and disturbed by the current administrations dealings at DSU. First the firing of Davenport, now Ken Peterson and Glen Webb. These gentleman were all immensely valuable to the university. The actions of the current admin must be accounted for and their power kept in check.”

Dixie Sun reporters haven’t been able to reach the person in charge of DSU’s Facebook page.

According to a statement from DSU released on Tuesday: “Per policy, vice presidents issue terminations, and President Williams is not involved in the initial investigation, decision-making process, or termination in order to stay impartial for any potential appeal process. Accordingly, each of the involved parties will have the opportunity for due process and to appeal these decisions to ensure a fair and balanced decision.”

DSU’s full statement can be read at https://news.dixie.edu/2018/03/06/statement/.

The Dixie Sun is continuing to work on this story, and more findings will be published as they are given to us. Multiple Dixie Sun reporters contributed to this story including Grant Jones, Markee Heckenliable, Hanna Pollock, Kylea Custer and Emma van Lent.