At a recent Associated Student Body Senate meeting, President Dion Kevin said he wanted to add a Purple Heart section on the Circle to honor veterans. However, Andrew Newby, assistant director of Veterans and Military services (VMS), and Student Veterans of America (SVA) have already put this type of initiative into place.
Newby began working with the Department of Parking and Transportation this past October to create an initiative that would enable Purple Heart recipients to park on the Circle. The plan was finalized in December and is awaiting implementation. He said the Circle was the perfect spot because of its central location.
“We decided on the Circle because it is at the heart of campus, would get good exposure and would be a good visual testament to the university’s commitment to honoring those members of the Ole Miss family who were injured during their service,” Newby said.
Newby said the initiative’s logistics have already been worked out. A faculty member, staff member, student or retiree of the university will go to the VMS office to confirm his or her award, review paperwork and draft a letter to the Department of Parking and Transportation. That individual will then purchase a parking pass, and the pass will be exchanged for the Purple Heart recognition program.
An individual with a pass from the Purple Heart Recognition program will be allowed to park in any lot on campus, except for reserved or handicap spaces, unless that individual has a condition allowing him or her to park there. If the individual is a visitor, he or she will have to provide documentation and will then be able to utilize the space on the Circle.
There are more than 1,300 students on campus who are veterans, in the military or military dependents. Newby said a select number of students in that group have been awarded the Purple Heart and are eligible to participate in the program.
The University of Alabama is the only other SEC school that designates Purple Heart parking spots on campus. Newby said there are a few other institutions across the country that have similar programs, but not as far-reaching as the one here.
“The partnership with the Department of Parking and Transportation has been wonderful, and the shared vision of the director, Mike Harris, and myself has proven to be most beneficial for our veteran community,” Newby said.
Additional resources are available for veterans on campus, such as the Veterans Treatment Team, which was launched last August. The team is made up of psychologists, psychiatrists, physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, academic support personnel and a case manager.
The Veterans Treatment Team was created so that student veterans on campus don’t have to miss class or work or take time away from their families to receive health care at a VA facility. Ole Miss is the first university in the SEC to have such a team.
In addition, Newby said the first Veterans Resource Center will open today in the E.F. Yerby Conference Center and will serve as a study and recharge location for campus veterans and military students. The resource center includes computers, printing, a kitchenette, study spaces and a lounge.
SVA President Evan Ciocci said he has spoken with Kevin since his statement at the recent ASB meeting, and he is very supportive of the parking initiative and other programs put into place by the VMS and SVA.
“My goal is to keep the lines of communication open and make sure that student veterans that come to Ole Miss have the best experience possible,” Ciocci said. “Dion is fully supportive of these goals and vocalized his support.”