Chancellor Glenn Boyce made one of his first public appearances last night at The Longest Table, an event intended to create a space for conversation among the many different voices on campus.
Boyce gave opening remarks at the event but did not comment for this story. During his remarks, he said he wanted to turn The Longest Table initiative into an Ole Miss tradition.
“I hope tonight that everybody here will speak freely, and enjoy the conversation and learn from each other,” Boyce said. “And so as we go about this to strengthen our community, to make new connections and new friends this evening, I would just suggest to you: Let’s start talking.”
Boyce emphasized his commitment to listening to students, as he did after it was announced that he would be the next chancellor.
“I will tell you that when you have the opportunity to have a grand idea, to create something as special as this evening, please do like Lily Sweet: don’t hesitate to bring it forward,” Boyce added. “Bring it forward, because we are a university that will listen, and listen with intent. And I make that commitment to you.”
Sophomore integrated marketing communications major Lily Sweet King started the event at Ole Miss after organizing The Longest Table initiative for 10 high schools in her county. King emailed Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks in the spring semester to start the process.
“So it’s been a long time coming, it seems, but it’s so worth it,” King said. “I’m so excited. The day is finally here.”
King said she was proud of the turnout and the goal of the event.
“(The goal is) to come together and understand other people and to break down these walls,” King said.
Administrators, students and professors gathered to sit down to eat dinner with guided discussions from mediators. Participants’ conversations included a wide range of questions, from which superpower they wish they had to what makes Ole Miss home. Other talking points included individual fears throughout their experiences at Ole Miss and what they would like Ole Miss to look like in the future.
Those at tables without mediators said that their conversations took a more casual turn, speaking about their opinions on political climate, places to visit and hobbies.
The Longest Table was sponsored by All In, the School of Journalism and New Media, the Ole Miss Student Union, Office of Fraternal Leadership and Learning, the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and the Division of Diversity, Community Engagement and Student Housing.
The event had 306 people register, according to assistant director for university and public events, Ashley Baker. The 50 tables stretched out for 400 feet, starting at the end of the Union through the Walk of Champions and into the Grove.
The food was provided by the campus dining services from Aramark, and caterers for the event were not permitted to comment.
Boyce sat with participants and was active in conversation throughout the event.
Brent Marsh, the dean of students, was among the administrators present and participating in the conversation with students. Marsh said his table’s conversation began with everyone getting to know each other and continued into what community members would like to see for the university in the future. He commented that a lot of the feedback he received about Ole Miss’s future was positive.
“I talked about hoping that we can continue to cultivate a university where everyone feels included and valued,” Marsh said. “Where all students, faculty and staff can really have each other’s best interests in mind when it comes to being a place where we’re all here to learn and just be our very best.”
The event is projected to occur again next year but has not been officially planned.
Listen to Boyce’s opening remarks here: https://soundcloud.com/the-dm-editor/boyce-at-the-longest-table