Professor Says He Was Punished By Auburn University For Revealing Alleged Football Players’ Go-To Major


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Neetu Arnold Contributor
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An Auburn University professor claims the school has punished him by limiting his raises and removing him from a chair position after the scholar revealed ties between the football team and a college major.

Economics professor Michael Stern claimed that he clashed with officials over the number of athletes in the public administration major, according to Inside Higher Ed Friday.

The conflict over whether the public administration program should remain at the university started in 2014, Higher Ed reported. A faculty committee at the university suggested to cut the public administration program due to decreasing enrollment and whether the major was useful to students, but the athletic department pushed to save the program, even offering to subsidize it.

Auburn University’s Faculty Athletics Representative (FAR) Mary Boudreaux said in a presentation to the University Senate on Feb. 4, 2014 that there was no clustering of football players in the public administration major. Stern, however, questioned the claim as he was told by fellow economics professor Randy Ford at the 2013 Iron Bowl that most of the star players were majoring in public administration, the lawsuit filed in September said.

“She [Boudreaux] continued to intentionally deceive regarding PUBA,” the lawsuit said surrounding a presentation given on Feb. 3, 2015.

The 2015 presentation by Boudreaux came after former Baltimore Ravens football player and mathematician John Urschel revealed in a blog post that 23 of the 48 upperclassmen football players studied public administration. Eighty-eight out of 11,402 upperclassmen, however, enrolled in public administration, or 0.8 percent of all upperclassmen. That meant 48 percent of public administration majors were reportedly from the football team. (RELATED: Student Debt Is So Massive Companies Are Using It To Lure New Workers)

Stern believes he received comparatively smaller raises than his colleagues due to revealing the public administration conflict to Ben Cohen of The Wall Street Journal, according to the lawsuit. The WSJ article focused on Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)  files, obtained by Stern, surrounding documents, data and emails related to the public administration major. The article was released on Aug. 28, 2015.

Stern received a 1 percent merit bonus and 1 percent salary increase, though he had positive performance reviews, according to Higher Ed. He was also removed from the economic department’s chair position in May, a position he held since 2010. He is suing the university on the basis of First Amendment rights, is demanding the university give the department chair position back to him and pay back money that he sacrificed when the position was withdrawn.

The public administration program enrollment dropped by 41 percent over the four years since Stern first asked questions surrounding the major in 2014, according to a February The Chronicle of Higher Education article. The major was flexible at one point, but officials reduced the number of electives students in the major could take after the program received scrutiny.

“There is more to this story than has been made public to this point, and each of Dr. Stern’s allegations will be addressed in the appropriate forum, which is the court,” Auburn spokesman Mike Clardy said, Higher Ed reported.

Auburn University did not immediately respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.

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