In the three years since Chancellor Vitter took control of the leadership at our university, we have declined in various positive metrics as well as witnessed our university become exceptionally divided.
A majority of conservatives have felt alienated by Vitter’s leadership since the beginning, with his support of those who pushed to remove the flag of the state which pays his salary, encouraging the prohibition of the playing of Dixie at football games, further engaging our school in a public relations debacle with the selection of a new mascot through a show vote, and, lastly, instituting various overreaching programs sold on the pretext of advancing diversity on campus which, in reality, sought to further consolidate power over a vocal majority which wanted Vitter’s tenure to end.
Vitter may have been trying to pursue a third way at a University which finds itself hostile; however, he never appeared to master the ability to be all things for all people. He often humiliated our school with his nervous policy implementation and run-and-hide approach to criticisms leveled by both students and facility. This is not to say that I have any doubts in Vitter’s abilities as a man, a father, a husband and a son; rather it’s to say that the position of chancellor is not and never was the proper position for him to excel in.
Moving forward, it would be in the best interests of all students, facility and alumni, regardless of their backgrounds and beliefs, to see the appointment of a chancellor that is Mississippi-made, tried and true, and understands what it means to an Ole Miss Rebel.
Will Hall is a senior journalism major from Atlanta.
Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter announced his resignation as Chancellor of the University of Mississippi following a very turbulent term in the position. There were many controversies surrounding Vitter, as there have been around the many chancellors before him. Even with that said, why would people celebrate the loss of a leader who has one of the most stellar resumes this university has ever seen?
Vitter has published over 300 books, compositions and journals for the field of computer science since he began his academic career. He was awarded tenure at age 29 in Brown University’s computer science department and went on to become the Provost at the University of Arkansas where he grew its academic faculty by over 60 personnel. Vitter earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Notre Dame, a master’s degree in business administration from Duke University and finally his Ph.D at Stanford University.
I believe Vitter came to the university during turbulent times and that led people to blame him for many of them. A few Greek letter societies are under investigation or have been closed due to various issues not caused by this chancellor. This, coupled with the many issues athletics has suffered, are all reasons enrollment is down and public outlook for the university isn’t great. The university was indeed set for many setbacks before his arrival. In light of this, we should be grateful he’ll stay on as faculty. I look forward to seeing what the engineering and computer science departments will achieve while he’s part of the Ole Miss family.
Brandon Brown is a senior psychology major from Laurel.
As I reflect on Chancellor Vitter’s tenure at the University of Mississippi, the central themes that emerge are passivity and temperance. Jeff Vitter is the embodiment of the morally vacuous centrism that both those on the center-left and center-right yearn wistfully for in our hyper-polarized political milieu. However, as Chancellor Vitter has shown, you cannot be an effective leader by straddling a fence.
Our university is a physical manifestation of the tension between the forms of the past and the future. While other southern universities can ignore their relationship with slavery, segregation and white supremacy, we, as students and fans of the Ole Miss Rebels, must navigate this crossroads every single day. I welcome this great responsibility to set the standard for other southern universities to follow. One cannot plead ignorance nor embrace indifference as he or she walks to class passing statues that glorify the mid-19th century struggle to maintain white supremacy and the mid-20th century struggle to dismantle it. On this campus, even being passively apolitical is still taking a stance.
Chancellor Vitter had the misfortune of being disliked by a majority of both the conservative students and donors for doing too much and by the progressive students and activists for doing too little. He tried to be all things to all people and ended up being nothing but a hollow “wrist-bump of both sides-ism.” I hope that the IHL will select a new chancellor who, with strength, courage and moral fortitude, will unapologetically lead us into the 2020s and beyond.
Jacob Gambrell is a senior international studies major from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
On Nov. 9, our university received news that Chancellor Vitter had announced his resignation. As our university moves into a period of administrative transition, it is important to reflect on his tenure.
Serving as the chancellor of any university is a difficult job. Yet, serving as the chancellor of the University of Mississippi is arguably one of the most difficult roles in higher education. On top of overseeing one of the fastest growing universities, university leadership must juggle our university’s often dark history, current interests, and future considerations to ensure students’ success. These demands are not easy to navigate, but Chancellor Vitter promoted progress in each area.
The university’s academics thrived under Chancellor Vitter’s leadership. He pushed for more academic opportunities through initiatives such as the annual UM Tech Summit and new building construction. He also expanded service opportunities into three neighboring communities through the MPartner program.
On the social side, Chancellor Vitter’s role was controversial. He oversaw the installation of contextualization plaques on campus, which is an important first step of many steps needed to recognize the university’s often overlooked history. He also advocated for the removal of Ed Meek’s name from the School of Journalism. While some of his responses to campus issues were lacking to say the very least, we as a community must recognize that progress is a marathon, not a sprint. Small steps forward are still steps forward.
I had the honor of getting to know Chancellor Vitter and his wife well over the past few years. Though I do not agree with all of their campus decisions, I deeply respect their work and commitment to better our university.
Levi Bevis is senior public policy leadership major from Florence, Alabama.
In order to understand UM’s chancellor drama, let’s follow the money.
In “Democracy In Chains,” Nancy MacLean alludes to the coup that removed former chancellor Dan Jones from office and installed Jeff Vitter in his place. Jones had been an advocate for Medicaid expansion, a stance that did not endear him to health insurance lawyer and Institutions of Higher Learning trustee Alan Perry, who helped choose Vitter.
The new chancellor avoided activism. Asked to speak at a ceremony dedicating a new scholarship for women in law school, Vitter instead devoted his remarks to a discussion of the building’s chandeliers.
However, he managed to ingratiate himself with certain reactionary elements, including the billionaire Fred Smith of FedEx, a notorious union-buster. Vitter pressured the Honors College to make Smith the Fall 2017 convocation speaker.
Vitter also curried favor with the Our State Flag Foundation, a group dedicated to promoting the white supremacist Mississippi state flag on campus — although many of its staunchest supporters are not students. When this group called for Vitter to condemn a progressive professor’s tweet, he quickly complied. However, Vitter remained dismissive of the UM Race Diary Project, instead celebrating a contextualization process that has still failed to remove even the most heinous names and symbols from campus.
And yet, at bottom, this issue is much deeper than the career of one individual. Vitter has not been executing his own agenda, but the IHL’s. As he prepares to exit, the IHL prepares to choose his successor.
Let’s hope they don’t give us somebody worse.
Jaz Brisack is a gender studies major from Oxford.
It’s déjà vu.
On March 20, 2015, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), the state governing body overseeing the administration of Mississippi’s public universities, announced that UM Chancellor Dan Jones’ contract would not be renewed. Jones’ tenure oversaw increased student enrollment, unprecedented private investment, and the institutionalization of inclusivity and racial reconciliation, but the IHL only later cited concerns regarding management of the University of Mississippi Medical Center as its justification.
Within a week of the announcement, a diverse collective of students organized Students for Chancellor Jones, and on March 25, approximately 2,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni crowded the Circle to demand Jones’ reinstatement. Despite statewide support, contract renegotiations were unsuccessful.
Still, students sought transparency and to actively participate in the chancellor replacement process. Yet the IHL-appointed Campus Search Advisory Committee included only a single student representative, then-ASB President Rod Bridges. We were told community input would be decisive, that candidates would be submitted to community debate, but candidate interviews began Oct. 13, and after only a week of private sessions, Jeff Vitter was selected as the IHL’s “preferred candidate” on Oct. 19, later to be appointed chancellor on Oct. 29, 2015.
Now, after Vitter’s resignation on Friday, we are again without a chancellor, again without public justification of why or what or how. Students must now decide: is this our university, or the IHL’s?
Disclaimer: In 2015, Allen Coon served as Communications Director for Students for Chancellor Jones.
Allen Coon is a senior public policy leadership, African-American studies, and sociology triple major from Petal.
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