Auditor: Professor owes nearly $2,000 after ‘Scholar Strike’

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s state auditor demanded Tuesday that a University of Mississippi professor pay nearly $2,000 after a two-day “work stoppage” to protest police brutality and other racial inequities

State Auditor Shad White demanded sociology professor James Thomas pay $1,912.42 — $946.74 for pay and $965.68 for interest and investigative costs. White said Tuesday that the strike was illegal.

White began investigating the sociology professor after Thomas participated in a Sept. 8-9 “Scholar Strike” in which professors and others halted their classes to protest racism, police brutality and other racial injustice issues.

“It’s simple—the taxpayers of Mississippi cannot pay someone when they did not provide the good or service they were hired to provide,” White said in a statement. “In short, he refused to perform his job duties, and his tuition-paying students suffered as a result. The taxpayers and donors to the university suffered, too.”

Thomas’ attorney, Rob McDuff, has said Thomas met his responsibilities that week and did nothing illegal. He said the professor prepares lectures and reading assignments and allows students to work at their own pace each week.

“If the auditor wants to pay (Thomas) extra for the personal days he has not used, the weekends and holidays he has worked over the years, including those he worked preparing the lesson plan that week, then maybe we can talk about whether he should pay any money because of his participation in the Scholar Strike,” McDuff said in a statement to the Clarion Ledger.

The outspoken sociology professor has sometimes clashed with state Republicans. After Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2018, Thomas came under broad criticism from conservatives after the professor said on Twitter that people should disrupt U.S. senators’ meals. “They don’t deserve your civility,” Thomas wrote.

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