Editor’s note: A earlier version of this interview with ASB President Barron Mayfield quoted incorrectly from his comments about a proposed increase in the student activities fee. He said that “if we get back in the fall and students are not super interested in it, then we’ll kind of back off.” He did not say that they would back off if students were super interested.
ASB President Barron Mayfield was inaugurated last Friday after winning 53% of the vote in a runoff election on April 4. News Editor Griffin Neal sat down with Mayfield to discuss his vision for campus, student representation on IHL and his favorite meal in Oxford.
GN: What’s your main goal for this school year?
BM: Policy wise, there are two big things I want to accomplish. One, look at raising the student activities fee. That is a $10 fee that students pay and that goes to fund every single organization we have on campus. They are able to request money for that for their organization, and then we budget the money out and give it to those organizations. So raising it $10 would double it, which would — right then and there — double the amount of money we’re able to spend on our student organizations and give out to them. (That) means that they would be able to go out and accomplish their mission better, whatever that is, for different organizations. But you’d be able to see more speakers come in, bigger names, (and) organizations would be able to do more programming, put on events. Service organizations would be able to complete more service projects for the community but also serve the students better. There’s a lot that can be done with that. That being said, if we get back in the fall and students are not super interested in it, then we’ll kind of back off. The other thing would be a total rewrite of the ASB code. It is completely out of whack right now, to put it lightly. There are a lot of contradictions in it. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t flow well together. So those two things would be my top priority.
GN: Is raising the student activities fee something that has to go through IHL?
BM: Yeah, it would have to go through IHL. But I think it was this past fall that Delta State raised a student activities fee of $25. So now theirs is over twice what ours is, and several other schools have done it over the last few years. So if we can say that students are behind raising the fee, we can take it to them and I’m pretty confident that they’d be willing to up it.
GN: What’s your ideal philosophy for the whole of ASB next year?
BM: I really want to make sure that everybody working for it feels like they have a purpose, like they’re doing an important job. And I think that is best done by doing purposeful work for the students. Right now, ASB kind of has its hands in a lot going on, on campus and I really want to do a critical assessment of what we’re doing, what we’re involved in, and then ask ourselves why and say, ‘If this isn’t the best way we can serve the students and if we can’t do this better than anyone else on campus, then we just don’t need to be doing it.’ So I would say providing a sense of purpose for ASB.
GN: Specifically, what within ASB would you cut or repurpose?
BM: Things like Active Minds and Safe Ride. Those are ASB agencies right now, but they’re entirely self-governing. They operate on their own, and we provide oversight and when they need help, they come to us. But really they operate independently (from) ASB. I’d like to see a couple other programs move that way, whether that’s Everybody’s UM, which puts on Everybody’s Tent and Everybody’s Formal. I think those events have grown to the point where we could have a serious conversation about spinning them off so they can really take on their own thing and become stronger, without us holding them back and without us having to spend our time and resources kind of bringing that along.
GN: Why are you here? Why did you run for the highest student position on campus?
BM: I think we have a lot of opportunity on our campus. Elam (Miller) put in place a lot of important policies and procedures and did a lot of important advocacy work, especially when it came to student representation on administration boards, specifically these chancellor standing committees. I’m really pushing for representation there. I saw an opportunity to take advantage of that and really use it to harness the student voice and get what we want done, be it big or small to get that done.
GN: As an ASB senator, and in your campaign, you were vocal in support of moving the Confederate monument to the cemetery. Being the representative of the student body, how do you plan to push that forward and put pressure on IHL to act?
BM: I think the students have made their voices heard on it. Senate had a unanimous vote, and we have a really diverse senate. We had a lot of different voices in there. We had a lot of different voices in there and people from different places on campus, different backgrounds, and it was a unanimous vote. I think where we go from here is continue to lobby the administration, continue to lobby IHL and say, ‘This is our campus, and we’ve spoken, so let’s get it done.’
GN: Speaking of IHL, you campaigned on getting student representation on IHL. Chancellor Larry Sparks said attempting to do so “is a waste of time.” Is it still a goal of yours to get student representation on the board?
BM: We increased the student voice on IHL over this past year, and I want to continue to do that. I know that by the end of my term, students will not have a seat on the IHL, because it’s a process that will take changing the Mississippi Constitution and at a minimum, you’re looking at a three, four, five-year process at best. So I’m not sitting here blowing smoke saying we’re going to get this representation, but if it’s going to take five, six years, then we’ve got to start somewhere, and I think the work was started last year. I hope to take that on and continue it, and make sure that our voices are heard, saying that we want a seat on it.
GN: Ole Miss will likely choose a new chancellor before the fall semester begins. What’s your picture of the ideal next chancellor?
BM: Definitely what we’ve got to find in the next chancellor is someone who can connect with students and build relationships with them (not only) on an individual level, but also with the student body as a whole. I think that’s (something) that’s been lacking in the past. And then I’d also say someone who loves Ole Miss, but that wouldn’t necessarily confine us to people who are from Ole Miss.
GN: Is achieving diversity a goal in your cabinet? In ASB as a whole?
BM: (Diversity) is something that I strive for. Not just diversity, but diversity of thought, of background, of program of study. I mean, this is the Cabinet of the Associated Student Body, so we’ve got to make sure that we are representing student voices from all over campus, not just one group over here or one group over there.
GN: Best meal in Oxford?
BM: Red Snapper from City Grocery.
GN: Jordan or Lebron?
GN: Last song you listened to?
BM: Last Nite by The Strokes.
GN: Favorite U.S. president?
BM: Teddy Roosevelt.
GN: How many pushups can you do without stopping? You may or may not be asked to prove it.
BM: I would guess, maybe like 40? Maybe lower. That might be ambitious.
This conversation was edited for length and clarity.