State Auditor: Ole Miss professor could face termination for striking

An Ole Miss professor’s decision to participate in a protest could place his job in jeopardy. 

Sociology professor James Thomas, controversially known for his tweet encouraging harassment against Republican senators during the Kavanaugh hearings, took part in the #ScholarStrike earlier this month, which according to State Auditor Shad White, is against state law. 

In a letter sent to Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Glenn Boyce and obtained by News Mississippi, White explained that Thomas’ participation in the “concerted work stoppage” is illegal under Mississippi Code Section 37-9-75. 

Thomas tweeted about his intent to participate in the strike before emailing his students that he would not be teaching on September 8th and 9th. According to White, not only should the university withhold Thomas’ pay for those two days, leadership should “proceed to court” to discuss the professor’s termination — the penalty for striking under state law. 

The #ScholarStrike was launched in the wake of protests across the country following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

“Scholar Strike is both an action, and a teach-in. Some of us will, for two days, refrain from our many duties and participate in actions designed to raise awareness of and prompt action against racism, policing, mass incarceration and other symptoms of racism’s toll in America,” the movement’s website states. 

Thomas was granted tenure back in May 2019, sparking outrage among portions of the Ole Miss community. The professor’s Twitter presence was a topic of discussion among the IHL’s Board of Trustees prior to making their decision. 

“Following discussion, including consideration of the Board’s support for academic freedom and expression, ultimately it was the recommendation of the professor’s institution, the University of Mississippi, that carried the greatest weight in the majority of the Board’s decision to grant tenure to the professor,” the IHL stated at the time.

Since then, Thomas has continued to be a divisive presence on social media— comparing teenage supporters of President Trump to Hitler youths and criticizing Ole Miss and Oxford leaders for their decisions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Despite the detractors, Thomas has garnered a wide range of support for his decision to take part in the recent protest.