As a graduating senior, I am fortunate to have experienced the University of Mississippi during a very interesting time in history. I have seen a change in administration, non-violent protests, some good baseball and an ambitious football team. There is no doubt I love the University of Mississippi: the campus, the sports, the classes, the faculty, etc. However, it is Ole Miss — the spirit, the facade, the violence disguised as politeness — the intangible aspects that are not what I hoped it would be.
I often think of the Frank Everett quote that is plastered across this town and this university, “The university is respected, but Ole Miss is loved. The university gives a diploma and regretfully terminates tenure, but one never graduates from Ole Miss.” This quote paints a deceptive picture of the “Ole Miss Family”. The cliquiness, the walls built around every group that exists showed me that I have no place in this community. I quickly came to realize that I did not want a place in this community of hostility and pretentiousness.
During my time at the university, I never felt “invested in,” but instead, I felt like the outcast. Always. I was in as many clubs as I could handle, trying to find my place. I went Greek trying to find my place. I partied trying to find my place. I went to class trying to find my place, but the place didn’t exist. Even with academic advisors in the biology department and career advisors in the health professions office, I never felt like anyone actually cared. I was just another checkbox.
I have been involved in Greek life, ASB, Orientation, the Honors College, honors societies, research groups, service projects and held many jobs. Each of these groups speak highly about how students are invested, but that never included me. I felt isolated by the people in each group who already knew who they would interact with. I was isolated by the stares that scream, “How did you get here?” or, “Who in the world are you?” Surrounded by 18,000 other students, I felt, and still feel, so alone on this campus.
I came to this university because it was the best affordable option I had, which I have come to realize I am one of only a few who comprehend the word “affordable.” I was so proud to be able to attend Ole Miss, but after freshman year, I wanted out. I was accepted to Columbia University as a transfer, but unfortunately, I could not afford the tuition. Actually, I couldn’t afford to go anywhere. I survived off excess scholarship money, and losing that money meant losing my ability to pay for rent, food, books, etc. So I stayed here. I tried to get involved. I tried to leave a legacy, but no one invested in me. People built walls around themselves, and that quickly made me build a wall around me. The “Ole Miss Family” never accepted me into its community.
I will happily walk across the graduation stage this weekend, receive my diploma and move on with my life. I am grateful for the opportunity to have learned at this institution, and I look forward to being successful in life, but I am not willing to give much credit to the “Ole Miss Family,” which to me is only a figment of my imagination.
Jake Fanning is a senior majoring in biology from Philadelphia, Mississippi.