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Embattled University of Idaho Professor Denise Bennett to Get Dismissal Hearing Monday


In early 2019, University of Idaho Professor and documentarian Denise Bennett was famous for just that: teaching and journalism. Then, in February, came the Vandal Alert, U of I's most severe emergency notification. It read, "Denise Bennett has been barred from Moscow Campus. Recent admittance to police of meth use and access to firearms. If seen on campus, call 911." According to the Moscow Police, however, there was never an investigation into Bennett to back up those allegations.

"I'd like to set this record straight: Students have rights. Employees are entitled to due process. I can't speak any more to it than that, or my lawyer will kill me," she told Boise Weekly in an exclusive interview.

On Monday, Aug. 26, another chapter will be added to her story. That's when she will attend her dismissal hearing at the Best Western University Inn in Moscow. She has already filed two tort claims, against the Moscow Police Department and the University of Idaho, and appealed the trespass order— the latter has been denied.

Following the dismissal hearing, the Dismissal Hearing Committee will send its recommendations to C. Scott Green, the new president at U of I, who will make the ultimate decision about Bennett's future at the university.

Complicating matters is the timing of the allegations. On Jan. 22, Bennett sent school officials an expletive-laden email criticizing what she said was the mishandling of grant funds. Soon thereafter, she was placed on administrative leave. Just over an hour before a planned student protest of that decision, the school issued its now-infamous Vandal Alert.

"We are far from done in expressing our disappointment in the administration's lack of transparency, accountability and communication," said Ryan Benson, administrator of the Students for Denise Facebook page. "We will continue to press administrators and speak out until this situation, which was escalated by the administration of the University of Idaho, is addressed, explained, and a significant resolution is made."

Though Bennett has remained active during her leave—a documentary she produced, "Some Lived: An Idaho POW's Story," aired on Idaho Public Television in February—she wrote that she felt adrift in Moscow in a press release issued by her attorneys.

"Honestly, leave is torture because I'm stuck in this small college town wearing my Golden V like Hester Prynne's scarlet A," she wrote, referring to a central character in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. "I wish one administrator had the guts to say, 'We are letting you go because you have a bad attitude.'"