Our leadership team has heard a lot of input — both in the last 48 hours and prior to that time — about the environment at Ole Miss and in Oxford as both the university and the town have grown. Our community has long taken pride in providing a welcoming environment for all who come here to study or visit. However, a number of students eloquently stated at last night’s campus listening sessions that our community does not always feel welcoming to them. We heard you.
The university’s leadership team will utilize a two-pronged process to enable our community to address an array of concerns emanating from the unacceptable social media posts published earlier this week by a prominent donor to the university. The near-term prong, which involves consideration of a name change for an academic unit, is governed by existing university process.
In light of calls by some in our community to change the name of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, it is important to explain the university’s long-established process to consider whether to modify the name of an existing academic unit. All of the following steps must be completed in order to make a name change:
- The faculty committee of the academic unit must approve a recommendation to make a name change.
- If that faculty group recommends a change, the matter must be taken up by the Undergraduate and Graduate councils. These councils have faculty from across the entire university and one voting student representative on each council.
- The actions of the councils are then considered by the Council of Academic Administrators, which is chaired by the provost. Its voting members include all deans, the Faculty Senate chair, faculty representatives, the three vice chancellors within Academic Affairs, the ASB president, and the Graduate Student Council president.
- If the Council of Academic Administrators recommends a change, the matter is referred to the Chancellor, who would decide whether to make a request to the IHL Board for consideration and a final vote.
This process is, by design, thoughtful and intentional. It is open to input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and it meets all accreditation requirements for changing organizational units on campus, including a unit’s name. We will follow this approach to consider any name change.
The other, longer-term prong will include expedited acquisition of additional feedback and consideration of new actions and strategies to address concerns around university and community climate. This initiative will be led by Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement, and informed by input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
I want to close by reiterating my thanks to the students who shared many emotional comments and perspectives at last night’s listening sessions. Your willingness to step forward and discuss how this week’s events affected you in a frank and civil manner reflected the best of what we want for our university. It is the constructive way for families to deal with the tough stuff in life, and it’s how our university family will address these issues going forward.
Jeffrey S. Vitter