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Next chancellor has a big job

By Preston Ray Garrett

While much has been discussed regarding the type of person who should become the next chancellor of Ole Miss, the time has now arrived to address what the next chancellor must achieve. 

As the University of Mississippi, our university is the flagship institution for education in Mississippi.  Unfortunately, numerous miss-steps have lead to a rift between Ole Miss and many Mississippians.

The existence and depth of this problem is easily observed during a short trip to Tupelo. A casual walk through the local mall or observation of local diners reflect this disconnect. On any given Saturday, 80 to 90 percent of those strolling through the mall or dining in one of the restaurants are sporting the MSU logo rather than the Ole Miss logo. Ole Miss ties for a distant second with the University of Alabama. As Ole Miss has a campus located in Tupelo, this lack of support is concerning. 

This simple fact raises great concern as to how the University of Mississippi is regarded in Mississippi communities that are not home to a branch campus of Ole Miss.   

The principle mission of Ole Miss is to prepare the young men and women of Mississippi for the future.

When Mississippi’s residents do not feel a connection with or an allegiance to Ole Miss, fulfilling the main mission of the state’s flagship university becomes increasingly difficult. Accordingly, the goal of the new chancellor must be to return Ole Miss to the position of love and respect in the hearts and minds of Mississippians which the state’s flagship university should hold.

Our chancellor must embrace Mississippi and proudly present Ole Miss as THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI. The chancellor must not allow himself nor the university to become distracted by obstacles thrown in the path of Ole Miss by those seeking to create controversy only for the sake of controversy.  These people do not have the best interests of Ole Miss or Mississippi at heart. Rather they seek to disguise not only their lack of solutions to the real problems facing our state and nation, but also their unwillingness and lack of desire to work to resolve real problems. Instead, the chancellor must focus on leading us in stepping over these roadblocks while striving to make Ole Miss “The Harvard of the South” among public universities. 

Much more will be gained and much less lost by embracing the proud heritage of Mississippi and the South than by continuing prior efforts to transform Ole Miss into just another politically correct cookie-cutter college. 

Such efforts only alienate the university from its home state. Those wishing to be part of “just another college” need look no further than Tiger High in Memphis.

Preston Ray Garrett is an Oxford attorney.  Contact him at ray@garrettfridayandgarner.com.