University of Idaho fires journalism professor

The University of Idaho fired a longtime journalism professor after months of controversy.

Denise Bennett taught documentary filmmaking, broadcasting and digital media production at UI since 2006.

She was placed on leave January 24, 2019 after sending an email titled, in all caps, ‘A MANIFESTO FROM A PROFESSOR WHO IS BEYOND FURIOUS.’ Bennett voiced her frustrations about the school’s lack of funding for the journalism and mass media program. The letter included several profanities.

Here is the beginning of that letter (I blacked out the profanity.) Shortly after she was placed on leave, she posted a live stream to YouTube addressing what happened. In that video, she continued to criticize the school for not properly funding the journalism/mass media prog.

— Ariana Lake (@arianaKXLY) September 20, 2019

In a livestream posted to YouTube January 29, after Bennett was placed on leave, she said ,”God and Satan know there’s no way in hell class or UI is going to fork over money for faculty and students in JAMM to get gear.”

Students immediately organized a show of support for Bennett. One protest was scheduled for noon on campus January 30. Then students and faculty got a Vandal Alert.

It told recipients to call 911 if they saw Bennett on campus. The alert went on to allege Bennett ws using meth and had access to firearms. She was banned from campus.

Student Logan Finney said that information regarding drugs and guns shouldn’t have been shared and was misleading. It was from an unrelated past police report that didn’t result in charges against Bennett.

Her case was under review by the university’s Dismissal Hearing Committee (DHC). In late August, that panel recommended Bennett’s employment be terminated. They found she had engaged in “unprofessional conduct, actions in violation of directives, unsatisfactory or inadequate performance of duties, admission of criminal conduct and actions in violation of policies.”

University of Idaho President Scott Green said he agreed with the DHC’s findings and supported the decision.

“After careful consideration, I commend the DHS for their thoughtful and fair review of the facts and agree with their recommendation,” Green said.

Bennett’s termination will take effect Saturday. Green went on to say in the letter that while Bennett will longer be employed at the University of Idaho, “it is my sincere hope that you can learn from this result and then address the underlying issues that have led to this outcome.”

Bennett has not responded to requests for an interview from 4 News Now.

The University of Idaho denied an interview. A spokesperson said the university does not comment on personnel matters.

Past student Michael Huffstutler said Bennett’s firing will have a huge impact on students.

“I believe that the university has acted poorly throughout this entire process by moving directly towards administrative leave and dismissal before trying to neutralize the situation through the ombuds office as is typically done in disputes between employees. I hope the situation can still have a beneficial ending that serves students and the community,” Huffstutler said.

Bennett intends to appeal the university’s decision, according to a report by Moscow-Pullman Daily News.

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