ST. GEORGE — A beloved music teacher at Dixie State University who was fired in March will be back on the job after the Utah System of Higher Education agreed Tuesday with a faculty review board hearing recommending his reinstatement.
Ken Peterson has been reinstated. He and fellow music professor Glenn Webb, both tenured professors at DSU, were terminated pending appeal March 2 for alleged violations of university policy. Webb has also been recommended for reinstatement but the Utah System of Higher Education has yet to address the review board’s recommendation in his case.
“The matter has been resolved and I will be returning to my teaching position,” Peterson wrote in a statement Tuesday. “I don’t have the words to adequately express my gratitude for the outpouring of support I’ve received from my friends, students, fellow faculty, and the community.”
In a statement to St. George News Tuesday, DSU spokeswoman Jyl Hall acknowledged the Utah System of Higher Education’s decision.
“Dixie State University wholeheartedly supports this decision, and we look forward to working with Dr. Peterson again,” she said. “DSU policies and procedures exist to provide a structured process and ensure fairness to and protection of faculty members throughout appeals.”
Privacy regulations prevent the university from going into detail about specific policy violations, but Peterson made his termination letter public shortly after his firing, in which he was accused of disclosing confidential information about another professor’s employment, slandering university President Richard B. Williams and other alleged violations of policy.
The exact details of Webb’s termination have not been released. While both professors have acknowledged the contents of their termination letters, neither believed they constituted grounds for termination.
Peterson said the appeal process was inconsiderately long on the part of the DSU administration, putting his and Webb’s lives on hold for months.
“As Glenn and I and others have spoken, we feel like we’ve been treated as common criminals,” Peterson told St. George News. “People who are guilty of misconduct are treated better than we have been treated – treated with more consideration than we have been treated.
“It is not only our lives that have been affected. The lives of our dependents, our loved ones, our students and the programs that depend on us have also been deeply affected and even damaged by the treatment this university has inflicted on some of its most dedicated employees.”
In her statement, Hall said the university acknowledges that the appeal process can be time-consuming and difficult for those involved, adding that it is imperative that the process is thorough to ensure a proper outcome.
“We appreciate all those who dedicated their time and resources to assisting with this process and are excited to welcome Dr. Peterson back to campus,” Hall said.
Students from the university’s music department are also breathing sighs of relief at the news, having been without key instruction from Peterson. In the wake of their dismissal, many students have come forward in support of the professors.
“My feelings right now are happy for him but very angry with the administration,” Gwyn Gable, a music student who graduated in May, told St. George News after hearing news of Peterson’s reinstatement.
“Why did they have to destroy my graduation experience for something like this,” she asked. “Usually, he would have been the one to hand me my diploma, but that experience was even taken away from me.”
Gable said she believes DSU administration officials responsible for the initial decision to fire Peterson should be held accountable for the “undue stress on so many students.”
Other students, such as Danelle Sullivan, left DSU after the professors’ termination, citing an unstable academic environment. Sullivan opted to complete her degree at another institution.
“This ridiculous witch-hunt has caused irreversible damage to my educational plan. I am having to move my family to northern Utah to continue my schooling,” Sullivan said. “I can’t continue at DSU only to see the next teacher be put on leave, and the next, and the next.”
Still awaiting news on his reinstatement, Webb thanked those who have supported him since his suspension in January and subsequent termination.
“I am grateful to the five faculty members who served on the FRB (faculty review board), and those friends, colleagues, and family who testified at the hearing,” Webb wrote on Facebook Saturday. “I am thankful for the good legal advice from my attorney. I am appreciative of all the support in many forms from all those to have offered it.”
Webb worked in the university’s music department for over 10 years and was instrumental in developing a bachelor of music program at the university. He had been working closely with several students who were working their way through the new program before his abrupt dismissal.
The Utah System of Higher Education’s decision on Webb’s reinstatement is expected July 20.
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