Following the protest of the appointment of Chancellor Glenn Boyce during a press conference on Friday at The Inn at Ole Miss, students and faculty are looking to the future for next steps and how more students can get involved.
Many student student organizations were represented at the press conference. Some students were protesting Boyce’s announcement as chancellor, while others were seated, taking part in “Hotty Toddy” chants in opposition to chants from protestors.
Alyssa Whitehead is a sophomore psychology major involved in the UM Pride Network, one of several student organizations represented at Friday’s protest.
“As a student leader,” Whitehead said, “…and a member of the Ole Miss community, I definitely felt like it was my responsibility and my place to send an email or anything I could do to get answers.”
Some students are also partaking in alternative protest methods, including calling and emailing the Institution of Higher Learning to express their concerns about Chancellor Boyce.
In an extensive email, Whitehead reached out to the IHL to “share a sentiment that my fellow students, faculty and alumni of this great university share.”
“The process in which Dr. Glenn Boyce was put into power disrespects and betrays the very creed that this university finds it grounding on,” Whitehead said in the email. “This ‘chancellor’ will not be supported by the school and any of its students and faculty. This is not a man who the people have chosen to lead. This is a monarchy at best and a dictatorship at worst.”
Whitehead also said she thinks that while there was a sizeable turnout from the student body at the protest, there is always room for more students to participate. There were around 150 protesters at Boyce’s announcement. She thinks many students don’t participate because they feel that their voices will not be heard, she said.
W. Ralph Eubanks, professor of Southern Studies, English and honors, insists that student activists should not back down.
“If James Meredith had given up, where would we be today?” he said.
Eubanks participated in the protest on Oct. 4.
“I felt that there was real solidarity between the students and faculty that were there,” Eubanks said. “I think that the message would have been much stronger had the doors been open and more people been allowed to come in.”
Eubanks said that he was pleased to see a “cross-section” of students who represented various organizations on campus. But, he also feels that more students don’t participate in activism due to a sense of learned helplessness, or feeling that nothing more can be done after facing opposition over and over again.
Eubanks reminisced about a protest that he attended for the removal of the Confederate monument.
“I’m always taken aback by the number of students who stand on the sidelines and watch protesters go by as if it has nothing to do with them, and I think that’s still a remnant of our closed society mindset here,” he said.
Jessica Wilkerson, assistant professor of history and Southern Studies, didn’t quite understand the IHL when she first started working at Ole Miss, and she said that students educating themselves about the IHL is the first step to getting involved.
As a faculty member, Wilkerson added that her job in situations like this is to support students. She thinks that although there are “a number of faculty who consistently show up for student activists,” there is always room for more involvement by other professors.
She believes professors could set aside time in their instruction to answer questions from students who may be seeking clarification on the issues surrounding the new chancellor and the IHL.
“I think it’s really incumbent upon them to share what they know and to see what questions their students have and help them to understand what’s happening,” Wilkerson said.