I am so pleased to welcome everyone back to an exciting new academic year. Our campuses come alive with optimism and energy each August when our full student body returns — students truly form the heart of our Ole Miss community.
Our excitement for the new year, however, is tempered by feelings of shock, disgust, and sorrow from the recent tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia. We are all struggling with the horrific events that unfolded when white supremacist groups incited violence, hatred, and even death in a college town with a vibrant and diverse community similar to our own.
The University of Mississippi emphatically condemns and rejects racism and bigotry. There is no place for violence and hate — not in our communities, on our campuses, or in our country. Diversity enriches the educational environment and experiences of all our campus constituents. I urge all members of the university community to embrace the tenets of the UM Creed with a commitment to respect, civility, and integrity, and to be on the forefront in condemning hate, bigotry, and violence.
Our highest priority is maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to our campus. We are always vigilant about protecting our campus from violence and harm. With our superb partners in law enforcement, legal affairs, and government in the City of Oxford, Lafayette County, the State of Mississippi, and the Federal Government, we are actively working together to ensure that our community is safe and that we turn away those with violent or malevolent intent.
The events in Charlottesville have heightened the national dialogue about social injustice and race. At Ole Miss we do not shy away from difficult topics. In fact, our university community has engaged in deliberate discussions for many years about how to confront our past while forging a vibrant future — to make clear that we reject past attitudes that do not reflect who we are today. As an educational institution, our guiding principle was that we have a duty to learn and teach from history, and contextualization was determined to be the most effective approach. We recently completed a 15-month endeavor with the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context to identify and contextualize the physical sites where we needed to offer more history and put the past into context. The effort involved both an academic review and broad community participation.
The fundamental responsibility of a university is to foster learning, innovation, and strong communities. Working together, we will continue to have positive impact. In future letters and blogs, I will write with details about some exciting upcoming events and initiatives:
- The second annual Tech Summit August 30, including a keynote by renowned Silicon Valley pioneer Jim Clark.
- Our second annual Town Hall meeting which will feature the results of our strategic planning efforts over the past year.
- A major event in November to feature the Flagship Constellation research initiatives.
- Launching of the M Partner program in January to strengthen Mississippi communities.
Please be watching for more information about these programs and initiatives in the coming weeks. And please accept my gratitude for all you do to help us fulfill our role as a flagship university.
As an academic community, the exchange of ideas and open dialogue are core to our culture. We will always engage in frank and open discussions of important issues to our community, so that collectively as a community we can come together and realize our flagship aspirations — to transform lives, communities, and the world.
Jeffrey S. Vitter
Chancellor and Distinguished Professor