The pressure is on for the state College Board to revisit its decision to fire University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones. The protest rally drew more than 25-hundred students, faculty, alumni and citizens to the Oxford campus yesterday.
The crowd left little doubt that they did not agree with the College Board’s decision to sack Chancellor Dan Jones over alleged financial and contractual mismanagement at the university’s medical center. According to police, this was the largest non-athletic crowd ever to assemble on the Ole Miss campus in the last three decades.
“On March 19th, 2015 around 6:40 pm our world changed,” said student Phillip Waller who serves as communications director for the group that organized the rally.
“The announcement that the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Leaning Board of Trustees had voted to search for a new chancellor caught everyone – students, faculty, alumni – by surprise. But it also pushed many of you to action.”
Since the announcement last week, heavyweights like former Chancellor Robert Khayat and best-selling author John Grisham have joined the chorus of critics that have blasted the IHL for overreaching. At the rally today, alumna Cindy Semmes who graduated from Ole Miss in 1983, says she’s outraged:
“I’m horrified that this whole thing has happened. He’s a fine man. He’s done great things for the university and quite frankly it embarrasses me that here we are in Mississippi and something else again is staining our state, our reputation and it shouldn’t be happening.”
In the past few days, the university’s staff, associated student body and faculty all have thrown their combined weight behind their chancellor.
“The senate of the faculty of the University of Mississippi is shocked and extremely disappointed to learn that the Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning decided not to renew the contract of our exceptional leader, Chancellor Dan Jones,” says theater arts professor Michael Barnett. He chairs the faculty senate that passed a unanimous resolution calling on the IHL to “immediately reverse its decision and renew his contract.”
Student organizer Ryan Felder told the crowd not just to look at the Chancellor’s success but also his virtues, including picking up plates of dinner guests at an event where he had been the keynote speaker, or his serving several years as a medical missionary in North Korea.
“What of the man who has instilled in students, faculty and staff the desire to put the needs of others before themselves. Isn’t that the leader Ole Miss needs? Isn’t that the leader this state desperately needs?”
And while state lawmakers are mulling over the idea of dissolving the College Board entirely, student organizers on campus are lighting a social media firestorm.
“I need you all to do me a favor. Right now, pull out your phones, take a selfie, take a group pic and post it on facebook, post it on Twitter, post it on Instagram.
Allen Coon is another student organizer.
“This whole movement has basically been funded and founded on social media and we need all of your help to keep this momentum going.”
Thousands were happy to oblige. Up in arms already, it wasn’t difficult to start the crowd on the Ole Miss fight song:
It remains to be seen if the IHL can actually withstand this kind of public pressure.