Oxford leaders and university administrators delivered the second “State of the University” speech of the academic school year Friday afternoon at The Inn as part of the 2018 Black Alumni Reunion.
Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter spoke about the university’s strategic plan and how the plan will benefit the university, the community and the state. The four pillars of the strategic plan are academic excellence; building healthy and vibrant communities; people, places, and resources and athletics excellence. Vitter said the contextualization process is a way of moving forward as a university and building a vibrant community.
“Earlier today, we celebrated the important and historic work of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee for History and Context,” Vitter said. “We unveiled six plaques around campus, and I invite you to go around and read the story of this univeristy, much of which you have experienced.”
Michael Thompson, associate athletics director of communications, addressed the pillar of athletics and announced Matt Insell, the head coach of the women’s basketball program had resigned. Insell’s resignation comes less than a month after men’s basketball head coach Andy Kennedy announced his resignation.
“We have a basketball circus going on and we have a second one that just started,” Thompson said. “We are looking not only for a new men’s basketball coach but we are also looking for a women’s basketball coach.”
Thompson also addressed the university’s appeal to the NCAA Committee on Infractions ruling. He said all of the university’s documents regarding the appeal may be found online.
“Right now, the latest document on that website is our appeals document,” Thompson said. “The appeals process, we’ve got several more weeks in it. The NCAA just asked us to grant them a 30-day extension.”
Student housing director Lionel Maten explained housing efforts he’s accomplished with the Department of Student Affairs. Maten said the the initiatives he’s introduced over the years were a “response to the needs of our students of color.”
“The two initiatives were a Greek garden and a space where our registered students could meet and have step practice,” Maten said. “It’s a real privilege to stand before you today and share that both of those initiatives have been achieved.”
Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill welcomed alumni and shared her thoughts on why Oxford is the “crown jewel of Mississippi.”
“I believe that what makes Oxford special goes really beyond creating a vibrant economy,” she said. “We have a community that supports each other. We have a community that appreciates and respects different perspectives. I really think that’s what sets Oxford apart.”
Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement, gave the closing remarks and shared her vision for what diversity means on campus. She said “understanding our story” helps us accomplish progress.
“There are a lot of people who want to tell our stories,” Caldwell said. “There are a lot of people who think they own the story of the University of Mississippi, and they have the right to tell it. We own our own story, and it’s important for us to embrace that.”
James Meredith, the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss after the federal government forced the state to allow it, attended the event and said he had mixed feelings about the afternoon.
Meredith said “everybody was interesting and Chancellor Vitter was spectacular” but was disappointed only two of the eight panelists were African American.
“Two out of eight (African-American speakers) are okay, but it would have been great to have four out of eight (African-American speakers),” Meredith said.