The Lyceum will open next week for the university community to meet and speak with senior university leadership for the first “Open Doors” event.
All senior leaders, including Chancellor Glenn Boyce, Provost Noel Wilkin and Athletics Director Keith Carter are committed to attending and hearing from students, according to Assistant Vice Chancellor for Diversity Shawnboda Mead. This comes after a semester of controversy over the selection of the chancellor and demands for more transparency in his role.
“We hope this is the start of a new tradition for the UM Community that provides an opportunity to develop genuine connections among students and senior leadership,” Mead said. “Given the casual nature of the event, we believe Open Doors is an excellent opportunity for students to not only learn about the various roles of senior leadership but also start meaningful conversations that will hopefully continue beyond the event.”
The idea originated in a meeting between Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement Katrina Caldwell and Joshua Mannery, a junior English and political science major who serves as the Associated Student Body Director of Campus Outreach.
From there, Mead worked with Mannery to assemble the Open Doors Committee, a team comprised of ASB and Columns Society students and university staff, to organize the gathering.
Mannery said the main purpose of the event is to give students a chance to engage with their administrators in person and humanize them as individuals.
“There has always persisted the idea that administration can be condensed down to one faceless entity to which students directed all of their ire and anger whenever things went wrong,” Mannery said. “In all actuality, there are so many people in the Lyceum who are dedicated to ensuring that the student experience be as pleasing and accessible as possible.”
Mead said Open Doors will build upon The Longest Table dinner that the university hosted in the Grove on Oct. 27. This was Boyce’s first public appearance since his controversial appointment as the university’s 18th chancellor, and it came after over three weeks of students and faculty protesting and condemning the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees for their decision to appoint him.
Mannery thinks that while the university will continue to face controversy, if students are given the opportunity to interact “with the people they have been trained to hate,” there might be a chance for increased collaboration and cooperation between students and administrators when future problems arise.
“This event is necessary because, if my short stint as outreach director has taught me anything, it’s that the senior leadership here at the University of Mississippi are some of the most kind-hearted, compassionate leaders I have had the chance to interact with,” Mannery said.
Students are welcome to come and go to Open Doors as they please, but the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement encourages all who plan on attending to register online so that it can provide enough food and beverages. Thus far, over 50 students have registered, and the first 100 students to show up will receive a free t-shirt. The event is next Tuesday from 5:30-7:00 p.m.