Students, faculty and alumni took part in protests across campus on Friday in response to the Institution of Higher Learning’s selection of Glenn Boyce as the University of Mississippi’s new chancellor.
Friday morning, students and faculty, led by campus activism groups, gathered in the Grove, making signs and organizing chants to say in response to the IHL’s upcoming news conference to announce the new chancellor. Protesters from the community gathered in The Inn at Ole Miss ballroom prior to the conference, which was cancelled because of disruptions.
When protesters entered the ballroom, they initially stood silently in the front of the room on either side of the podium, holding signs with phrases such as “not my choice, not my chancellor” and “abolish the IHL.”
Tensions escalated in the ballroom after community members started the Hotty Toddy chant. Immediately following, protesters began a chant in unison: “IHL… what the hell?”
When the fire marshal closed the ballroom door after the room reached capacity, protesters demanded the door be open so those outside could hear the conference. With the doors closed, the ballroom is soundproof.
Organizer for UM Solidarity Cam Calisch was forcibly removed from the room during the protests.
Jessie Wilkerson, assistant professor of history and Southern studies as well as another protester, said that Calisch was asking the University Police Department to allow students to enter the room.
“She was asking the police to open the doors because this wall can open, or go up, and she was asking them to open it so the students outside could be a part of the process,” Wilkerson said. “She was told she had to leave and then was pulled out of the room in a pretty unnecessary way.”
Wilkerson also said that faculty has been disgruntled with the IHL for several years over past chancellor searches and tenure deliberations.
“This goes back several years,” Wilkerson said. “The process with Dan Jones was dubious (and) the process with Vitter was dubious. They’ve threatened our tenure at this university and now they’ve pulled this.”
The IHL Board held a two-hour discussion during the summer to decide whether James Thomas, a professor of sociology, should be granted tenure because of controversial social media posts. In the end, he was granted tenure.
Wilkerson said that the protesters were calling for future chancellors to be appointed by a board that is specific to the university rather than the entire state of Mississippi.
“We are calling for the abolition of IHL,” Wilkerson said. “We would like to see a board for our own university, not these people who are outsiders and are political hacks to the governor.”
All 12 members of the IHL Board of Trustees were appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant.
After protesters persisted with chants throughout IHL Board of Trustee Vice President Ford Dye’s opening, University Police Department decided to cancel the news conference. UPD Chief Ray Hawkins called off the conference because there were “people in attendance who choose not to be civil.”
UPD then asked anyone who was not a guest at the Inn to leave the property, resulting in protesters marching across campus to the steps of the Lyceum to continue the chants.
When asked what a better chancellor search process would look like in the future, Associated Student Body President Barron Mayfield leaned in to the recorder and said, “one not run by the IHL.” Mayfield also served as the student representative on the Chancellor Search Advisory Committee.
“That would take obviously some big structural changes, but I think that’s got to be looked at,” Mayfield said. “This has been totally mismanaged from the get-go and I’m very upset by it.”
Mayfield said that he did not think the IHL took student’s input or the input of the advisory committee into account when they made their decision.
“The students were not represented,” Mayfield said. “I was frustrated from the get-go that I was the only one placed on the advisory committee, but you could have put a thousand students on there and it would have made no difference because they weren’t listening.”
In the Grove on Saturday, more Ole Miss fans wore stickers featuring a photo of Boyce inside the words, “Beat the IHL.”