Fired Dixie State University music professor gets his job back

Dixie State University professor Ken Peterson demonstrates across the street from the university in St. George, Utah, May 3, 2018 | File photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

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 directs the Southern Utah Heritage Choir, St. George, Utah, date not specified | File photo courtesy of the Southern Utah Heritage Choir, St. George News

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 that led to Peterson’s dismissal in March, 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.

DSU Music Director Glenn Webb leads the university’s Jazz Ensemble in a performance with hip-hop composer “Double G,” Eccles Fine Arts Center, Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, April 18, 2013 | File photo by Chris Caldwell, St. George News

“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.

Read more: ‘Morale is at an all-time low’; protesters at Dixie State University ask for answers in wake of professor firings

“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.

L-R: Gwyn Gable and Christie Nielson protest the firing of Dixie State University professors in front of the university in St. George, Utah, May 3, 2018 | File photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

“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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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • WendyandMyke July 10, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    Yes! Dixie needs to clean house starting with Biff and his poor excuse for counsel. I hope Varlo wins in court -this administration has been on a witch hunt destroying people’s lives and it has finally been exposed! Congrats Dr Peterson! The students are thrilled!

  • SteveSGU July 11, 2018 at 2:54 am

    “Dixie State University wholeheartedly supports this decision.”

    Really?? Do you know what “wholeheartedly” means?

  • Kilroywashere July 11, 2018 at 10:28 am

    Hey, great Professors out there, come research and teach at Dixie St. We offer great pay, a supportive environment, and career enhancement opportunities.

  • mesaman July 11, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    Great news!! These faculty members are finding justice here in happy valley. Now, do we know who the bad guys are? And the good guys? And does there have to be a winner in this brouhaha? This administration is creating tradition but is this institution paying the price for it? If the president is trying to remodel Dixie in the tradition of eastern universities then it might be time for his return to his earlier academic roots.

  • Mike P July 11, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    Would it be a good guess that the Professor who was reinstated was Morman and the one who wasn’t reinstated isn’t? Just guessing, I don’t know either one.

  • Emily August 6, 2018 at 3:23 pm

    You need to see the update to the story. The “Last Chance” employment agreement they are asking Dr. Ken Peterson to sign is ridiculous and should be illegal. He may have been “reinstated” but they obviously don’t know the meaning to that word or understand tenure.

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