Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter announced his plans to resign from his position as chancellor and instead become a tenured professor in the computer science department after January. Ole Miss students had varied responses to the announcement and the legacy that Vitter leaves behind.
Vitter, the 17th chancellor of the university, has presided over some of the university’s most troubling times in recent history. His resignation comes at the end of a period when student enrollment has decreased for two consecutive years, former Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze resigned and the university was under investigation by the NCAA. Earlier this year, the university attracted national attention for the racist tone of a Facebook post made by a prominent donor. Vitter’s responses to these controversies, along with others from throughout his three years, seem to have left students with the opinion that the chancellor took a risk-free approach to his position.
Graduate history major Tom Porter said he didn’t understand the timing of Vitter’s resignation and found himself asking “Why now?”
“I feel like I’m standing on uneven ground,” Porter said on Friday.
Porter said he was not satisfied with Vitter as chancellor because of his inability to address issues of race on campus, and he just had an interest in “finding money for STEM projects.”
“It just never felt like he had an active interest to make the campus an inclusive place,” Porter said.
Freshman international studies and Spanish major Reed Peets said he thinks Vitter’s resignation is interesting because there had been previous rumors that his contract wasn’t going to be renewed.
“I mean that must mean that there’s something pretty significant that the university was not happy about.” Peets said.
Senior biology major Grady Fisher said he doesn’t care very much about Vitter resigning.
“As long as the next guy doesn’t destroy the university, do what you want,” Fisher said. “They’re going to take my money whatever I do, so who cares who’s running (the university).”
Sophomore journalism major Austin Parker said he doesn’t think Vitter has done much for the university.
“He’s been very neutral and on the fence about things,” Parker said. “He’s been very risk free, so to have someone who is able to take the risk and do something bold as the new chancellor will be really exciting for our school.”
Junior journalism major Morgan Buompastore wasn’t surprised that Vitter resigned on Friday but said it happened sooner than she expected.
“He wasn’t really doing much about changing the university,” Buompastore said.
Junior English education major Jennier Cato said she thinks this is one of the biggest announcements of the year, and she hopes “whoever fills (Vitter’s) position is super qualified.”
Vitter’s resignation marks the second chancellor in a row to resign under unclear terms. The state college board made the controversial decision not to renew former Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones’ contract in 2015.
According to a statement from the state college board, an interim chancellor will be named soon.
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