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James Thomas, associate professor of sociology at the University of Mississippi, withheld his labor for two days as part of last week’s national Scholar Strike against racial injustice and police brutality. Now the state auditor wants Ole Miss to fire Thomas, on the grounds that public employees are prohibited from striking in Mississippi.
Shad White, the state auditor, reportedly told the Clarion Ledger that he’d sent two agents to Thomas’s house but that Thomas "wasn't interested" in talking to them. In a letter to Ole Miss, White pressed Chancellor Glenn Boyce not to pay Thomas for the two days of the strike and to pursue his termination. "You’ve got a professor that's telling the world that he's engaging in a strike," White told the Ledger, referring to Thomas’s social media posts about the strike. "I wanted to make sure, at minimum, he doesn't get paid for those two days he went on strike, and I believe that falls completely under my purview."
Thomas declined comment. The university said it does not discuss personnel matters. Strike co-organizer Anthea Butler, associate professor of religion and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said Wednesday that it is “disappointing to think that in a time of upheaval due to the pandemic and racial injustice” that White “felt the need to send two investigators to Prof. Thomas's home to intimidate him over participating in Scholar Strike.” The “message that that sends from a state that only recently changed its flag says a lot about the racial and political situation in the state of Mississippi, and the politics of Mr. White.”