UM Advisory Committee on History and Context Hosts Listening Sessions

Group seeking community input for content and design

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context held its second listening session Thursday (March 23) to hear from the community about designing the content and format for physical sites recommended for contextualization.

The meeting Thursday represents the second part of the committee’s work. The first listening session was held March 6 at the Inn at Ole Miss and it focused on input from students, faculty and staff.

Thursday’s event, held at Burns-Belfry Museum in Oxford, allowed the advisory committee to focus on input from the broader community. More than 25 community members and alumni came to the meeting.

In addition to the listening sessions, the committee is accepting input from the community via an online form about facts or other information, such as noted experts or resources to be considered in the design of the content and format. Submissions will be accepted until March 31. The committee also has recently updated its website with a FAQ section.

Don Cole, assistant provost and professor of mathematics, who serves as CACHC co-chair, opened the session and invited UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter to talk about the significance of the committee’s work.

“Our university has long been committed to honest and open dialogue about its history and how to make our campuses more welcoming and inclusive,” Vitter said. “I think it is important to recognize that we are on the forefront of institutions of higher education in the nation to systematically and vigorously undertake contextualization efforts.”

Vitter established the committee in summer 2016 in an effort to address UM’s physical site contextualization efforts in a comprehensive and transparent process informed by expertise.

There are more than 100 structures on the Oxford campus. Seven of those have been identified for contextualization. Designing the content and format for the contextualization of these sites will finish the committee’s work. The group will use the public’s input to help draft their final recommendations to submit to the chancellor by May 31.

The chancellor explained the importance of the listening sessions.

“I’ve made it clear that the committee of experts needs to listen and engage in constructive conversations with all our university stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – so that they don’t miss anything and so that they weight all relevant information,” Vitter said. “It’s the best of all worlds: a committee of experts but at the same time, very wide and broad input.”

During his remarks, Vitter referenced his March 9 letter in response to misperceptions that emerged from the March 6 listening session. He emphasized that the committee’s work is focused on contextualization of existing physical campus sites.

“No other items are under the purview of the CACHC as a part of tonight’s discussion,” he said. “For example, as I explained in my letter of June 10, the terms ‘Ole Miss’ and ‘Rebels’ are here to stay as positive and endearing nicknames for the University of Mississippi.”

Rose Flenorl, an Ole Miss alumna and manager of social responsibility at FedEx Corp., serves as co-chair of the committee along with Cole. Flenorl talked about how the committee has used community engagement as a key part of its effort.

“Dr. Vitter understands that community input and engagement are paramount to the integrity and success of our efforts,” Flenorl said. “He encouraged the committee to utilize transparent and inclusive mechanisms such as the online form we used in August 2016 to solicit public input into the identification of the physical sites to be considered for contextualization.”

“The committee received 45 separate submissions, and we used those to inform our discussions and guide our recommendations. And we are again using an online form to ask for your input and ideas about the final part of our work.”

The listening session included committee members Andy Mullins and Charles Ross presenting background information about the committee, the work completed so far and the plan to address the final part of their charge.

Ross explained the seven sites to be contextualized include Lamar Hall, Barnard Observatory, Longstreet Hall and George Hall. The antebellum sites of Barnard Observatory, Croft Hall, the Lyceum and Hilgard Cut are to be contextualized with one plaque to be placed just west of Croft, within sight of the three buildings, noting that these four projects were built with slave labor.

In addition, one building, Vardaman Hall, which was already approved for renovation by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Education last spring, will be recommended for renaming. A new name is yet to be determined. The renaming would occur through university processes and be subject to IHL approval.

Also, signage at the Paul B. Johnson Commons will altered to add “Sr.” to clarify that it is named after Paul B. Johnson Sr.

Cole explained the committee’s approach to the final part of its work.

“The CACHC is armed with a wealth of knowledge and perspective through the assemblage of talented faculty, staff, alumni and students,” Cole said. “We are approaching our second task by dividing into smaller work groups, which will each address one or more of the sites. We will organize our effort while we eagerly await the results on the online submission form.”

The committee heard from a handful of attendees including community members, students and alumni.

“The achievements of these people who these buildings were named after must not be understated or overstated,” said UM alumnus Richard Noble of Indianola. “Personal modern day opinions and prejudices are not necessary and are not applicable to explain the facts of their time. If we let the events of the past dictate the decisions of the present, our future will be lost. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to alter the facts of history.”

The comments from the listening sessions along with the online feedback will be used by the committee to inform their recommendations to the chancellor.

UM Liberal Arts Graduate Programs Jump in Rankings

English, history and political science doctoral programs named among nation's best

Several programs in the UM College of Liberal Arts, headquartered in Ventress Hall, have risen in the latest rankings of graduate programs by U.S. News & World Report. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – On the heels of achieving the university’s highest-ever standing in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of Best (Undergraduate) Colleges and Universities, the publication’s most recent graduate academic program rankings confirm the university’s commitment to academic excellence.

Doctoral programs in English, history and political science all made significant strides in the 2018 graduate program rankings, indication of the growing strength and upward trend for UM’s graduate programs in social sciences and humanities.

The U.S. News & World Report graduate rankings for the three programs were last updated in 2013.

“We are proud of the faculty who have worked hard to distinguish our graduate programs, and these new rankings clearly indicate that they are gaining recognition for their efforts,” said Noel Wilkin, UM interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “We have encouraged each of our programs to pursue excellence and I am pleased that this pursuit is bringing recognition to our faculty, our university and our state.”

The English doctoral program demonstrated the biggest jump as it improved 16 spots, where it tied for No. 40 in the nation among public universities with fellow Southeastern Conference institutions the universities of Florida and Missouri.

A Ph.D. in history from the university has never been more valued, as the graduate program cracked the Top 40 for the first time. UM tied for No. 37 in the category – up nine spots from 2013 – and shares the position with fellow SEC and Carnegie R1 research universities Texas A&M and Kentucky.

The political science graduate program entered the rankings for the first time and tied for No. 58 among public institutions.

Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, says the rankings are a testament to the university’s strong faculty, staff and students.

“These rankings demonstrate what we have believed for some time: that we have strong, competitive doctoral programs on our campus that are well-respected at the national level,” Cohen said. “Of course, without the hard work of our faculty, staff and students, and the support of university administration, none of this would be attainable.”

The rankings are based on data collected last fall via surveys sent to administrators or faculty members at schools that granted five or more doctorates in each discipline from 2011 to 2015.

“Graduate education is increasingly important and valued in today’s competitive global marketplace,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “A UM graduate degree marks someone as a leader who will exceed employer expectations and be a real-world change maker.

“In order to continue the rise of our graduate programs, we are committed to enhancing our R1 standing as well as faculty excellence, research and scholarship.”

UM Support of International Community of Scholars

On January 29, I shared a statement with the University of Mississippi community about a recent Presidential Executive Order that limits immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The order also directed the suspension of the refugee admission program for 120 days, and indefinitely for refugee processing of Syrian nationals.

You have my commitment that we will focus upon what is truly best for the well-being, safety, and success of our students and our university.  I want to assure all members of our community that as we closely monitor the long-term impact of the recent Presidential Executive Order, we will continue to do as we always have done: support all our students.  We will also continue to abide by all federal and state laws, including federal constitutional and statutory privacy rights afforded members of the university.

Here are some of the ways we are supporting our international colleagues and some of the information we are providing to those in our community affected by this action:

  • University administrators on the Oxford and Jackson campuses have individually and directly communicated with the 26 students and 11 faculty and staff members from these named countries who are affected by the executive order.
  • At this time, we are advising all nonimmigrant-status students, faculty members, and staff members from the named countries to avoid travel outside the United States.
  • Individuals from the affected countries who hold permanent resident status in the United States, as well as nonimmigrant-status individuals holding dual citizenship from these countries and a country other than the United States, are advised to consult with the Office of International Programs or an immigration attorney before traveling abroad.
  • Housing accommodations will be available for affected students needing assistance over spring break and summer, if necessary.
  • The Office of the Chancellor is reaching out to student groups to facilitate discussions on how UM can provide additional support to affected students.
  • If you believe you may be affected by the executive order or are uncertain about whether these orders affect you or someone you know, we encourage you to contact the Office of International Programs. If you are seeking advice in confidence, you may call 662-915-7404.  Additional resources and support are available from

I want to reiterate my frequently stated conviction that the many members of our international community enrich our Flagship university and add great value. As one of the key initiatives I highlighted in my investiture address on November 10, we will make our great learning and research environment even greater by expanding international presence on our campuses and educating our students to prosper in a global society.

I ask all members of the Ole Miss family to please join me and our leadership team in lending support to our international students, faculty, and staff.  Having a robust international community — with its diversity of talents, cultures, and contributions — enriches and enhances the vitality of our university and our state.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Statement from Chancellor Vitter Regarding Presidential Executive Orders

As a public international research institution of higher education, the University of Mississippi is focused upon education and the success of our students in a global society.  We are a community of scholars committed to fostering a diverse environment, and we benefit greatly from a strong international and multicultural presence.

One of our top priorities is a safe and welcoming environment for all our students, faculty, staff, and visitors.  However, we recognize that for many in our community, there is significant anxiety, fear, and uncertainty related to recent Presidential Executive Orders.

We are currently gathering information and evaluating the impact of the executive orders upon members of our university community.  If you believe you are affected, or are uncertain about whether these orders affect you, please contact the Office of International Programs.

We value all members of our university community and extend our support to our international students, faculty, and staff during this uncertain time. We call upon all members of our community to support one another.  We will continue to monitor this rapidly evolving situation and keep the university community updated as more information becomes available.

Sincerely,

Jeffrey S. Vitter

Living Your Dream Can be Sweet

UM student and Batesville police officer makes a difference in community

Eddie Flores

Batesville police officer Eddie Flores won the hearts of several children in his community one warm Sunday afternoon. Flores, also a University of Mississippi student, was patrolling a neighborhood when he saw a few children throwing a football around.

He decided to surprise the children with a few frozen treats from a nearby ice cream truck. Greeted by several bright, smiling faces, he was inspired to buy enough treats to share with everyone.

Residents of the community were thrilled by what they witnessed. Flores became an instant celebrity, posing in photos and videos with community members. Later that day, a photo and video of Flores’ deed had received 381 “Likes” and 216 “Shares” on Facebook.

Flores said that he had no intentions of telling the Batesville Police Department about what he had done. The next morning, the chief and deputy chief found out about his random act of kindness through social media and said that it brought a good image to the department.

“I feel like it’s a big thing to be involved with the community and community policing,” Flores said. “It shows them that we’re human, too. … It’s always good to show a positive image. They’re good kids.”

Flores is originally from Houston, Texas. In addition to helping keep the Batesville community safe, he is a part-time student at the University of Mississippi, where he is studying business management. During his time at Ole Miss, he has been involved in the Latin American Student Organization and works full-time so he can support himself while attending school.

Flores said that he had many friends who convinced him to come to Ole Miss. He knew that the university had a good business program and that he also loved the atmosphere on the campus. Being a student at Ole Miss has impacted him in many ways, he said, from meeting great people to experiencing the true Southern hospitality that fills the town with good vibes.

Stefun Gill, an Oxford police officer, met Flores through a mutual friend while he was an Ole Miss student. He describes Flores as “a very caring person who puts other people before himself.” Becoming a police officer while in school is not an easy feat, Gill said.

“He will definitely exceed any goals he has set for himself,” Gill said.

This month marks a full year that Flores has been a Batesville police officer. He said that he loves the department and that everyone is good to him there. Being in law enforcement is something that Flores has always wanted to do. His father is a police officer back in Houston, where he has served the Harris County Police Department for 31 years.

Many years ago, there was a tragic incident that involved his father’s brother. That incident is what led Flores’ father into law enforcement; he wanted to make a difference. Flores expressed that when he was growing up, he not only watched his father make a good career out of being a police officer, but he also raised his family with that job, which is why he looks up to his father.

Flores’ long-term goals include continuing to gain experience in the field of law enforcement and becoming an ideal candidate for a federal agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Flores’ generosity is a wonderful reminder that an abundance of good still remains in a seemingly unkind world.

To anyone who is thinking about going into law enforcement, Flores said, “It’s not for everyone. … You can’t halfway do it. Your life becomes a fishbowl and everyone is watching you.

“Go in with an open mind. You’ll be able to figure out if it’s for you or not when you go to the police academy for training. They’ll instill that lifestyle on you. It just changes you to be a better person.”

UM Winter Institute Has Key Role in National Day of Racial Healing

Initiative of W.K. Kellogg Foundation includes more than 130 organizations across the country

OXFORD, Miss. – The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi is collaborating with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and more than 130 organizations for a National Day of Racial Healing on Tuesday (Jan. 17).

The observance is an effort to heal wounds created by racial, ethnic and religious bias and build an equitable and just society where all children can thrive.

“We have to be truthful when looking at ourselves as individuals and as a nation,” said Portia Espy, the Winter Institute’s director of community building. “Although we’ve made positive strides in the area of race relations, there is still a deep divide in this country, one that if we’re not careful will become even deeper; undoing the good work that has been done.

“We each have to take responsibility in playing our individual and collective parts in bridging the divide and bringing us together as one. The National Day of Racial Healing is intended to call attention to this need and to kick off an ongoing effort to bring the healing that many in our nation are calling for.” 

In the next few weeks, the Kellogg Foundation and its Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation colla­borating organizations will carry out a variety of events to mark the first-ever National Day of Racial Healing. The TRHT community, corporate and nonprofit partners represent a collective network of nearly 300 million Americans.

Winter Institute namesake, former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter, serves as the TRHT enterprise’s honorary co-chair, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. 

One of the Winter Institute’s most powerful tools is the Welcome Table and its story circles, which build trust and understanding among participants. The institute has developed a toolkit that individuals can use to lead story circle sessions in their communities as part of National Day of Racial Healing events. The toolkit can be accessed at http://winterinstitute.org/national-day-healing-toolkit/

Communities are encouraged to share their TRHT efforts, on Jan. 17 and afterward, by posting photos and statements on social media using the hashtag #mississippihealing.

“Communities, organizations and individuals are being asked to acknowledge that there are still deep racial divisions in America that must be overcome,” said Gail Christopher, senior adviser and vice president for TRHT at the Kellogg Foundation. “We have to come together to heal and commit to truth telling, engaging representatives from all racial, ethnic, religious and identity groups in genuine efforts to increase understandi­ng, communication, caring and respect for one another.”

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have equal opportunities to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

Based in Battle Creek, Michigan, the foundation works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans.

For more information about the Winter Institute’s National Day of Healing, email Portia Espy at portia@winterinstitute.org.

Statement from Chancellor Vitter regarding ASB’s resolution on sanctuary campus

“I am aware of the resolution drafted by a few Associated Student Body Senators and some student organization presidents calling for the university to become a sanctuary for undocumented members of our community.  Leaders from our Associated Student Body have informed us that the resolution has been pulled from tonight’s agenda and will not be discussed.

“As chancellor, my responsibility is to administer and operate the university within applicable Federal and state laws, as well as the policies and procedures established by the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

“I do believe it is an important part of the educational process ­­— and central to our UM Creed — for students to discuss the difficult issues of our day, and it is equally important that all voices be a part of that healthy debate.  I can assure you that we will also continue to uphold our legal responsibilities and our university policies.”

Saudi Arabian Student Organization Hosts National Festival

Attendees enjoy an evening of Saudi culture and tradition

The Saudi Arabian Student Organization at Ole Miss hosts the Saudi National and Cultural Festival at the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

The Saudi Arabian Student Organization at Ole Miss hosted the Saudi National and Cultural Festival at the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts was filled with the sounds, sights and aromas of the Middle East recently as the University of Mississippi’s Saudi Arabian Student Organization hosted a cultural exhibit featuring traditional Saudi dance, cuisine and culture.

“The purpose of our event was to represent our cultural theme through a documentary film, Saudi traditional dance, a Saudi heritage exhibit and cultural fair with complimentary Arabic coffee and food to share with the UM community,” said Bjad Almutairy, the festival’s executive director and SASO president.

The documentary was an original film created by Almutairy and Abdullah Alotaibi, the group’s director of social and cultural affairs. In another video directed by Ammar Nahari and edited by Mohammed Al-Harthy, American students at Ole Miss shared perspectives about Saudi Arabia.

For the event, the committee members wore traditional Saudi attire. The exhibit also featured special decor and an Arabic reception that represented the nation’s culture. The group also conducted activities such as learning to write your name in Arabic and a henna tattoo station.

SASO teamed with the Ole Miss Department of Theatre Arts to present a play called “Saudi Student Journey to The U.S.” This original production written by Almutairy, Alotaibi, Nahari and Mohamed Suaib and directed by Austyn Davis and Riette De Jager.

The play took a humorous approach to focus on the experiences of Saudi and other international students, facing the challenges of language barriers and cultural differences.

Guests for the evening include Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his wife, Sharon; Brandi LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs; UPD Police Chief Tim Potts; and Donald Cole, assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs

“Sharon and I had a wonderful time at the Saudi National Festival,” Vitter said. “We truly treasure that we can have these amazing international experiences from our Oxford campus. It is an important part of university life to offer global opportunities and a rich multicultural climate for our students, faculty, and staff.”

The festival provided an entertaining glimpse into the culture of another country, LaBanc said.

“We tasted wonderful food and drink and learned about all aspects of the Saudi culture,” she said. “I am very appreciative of the efforts of SASO to bring their culture and country to our campus – there is so much fun in exploring and celebrating cultural difference.”

The event also helped advance the university’s goal of providing students with an international perspective, Cole said.

“These events are so valuable to our institution because we realize that not every one of our students will go abroad and programs such as this can help give our students a more global perspective that they would otherwise not receive,” Cole said. “It was impossible to attend this event and not learn.”

UM Kappa Alpha Chapter Assists in Hurricane Matthew Relief Effort

Greek organization conducts backpack and school supply drive for North Carolina schools

UM Kappa Alpha member and senior John Grantham delivers school supplies collected by the chapter to Tara Bullard, principal at West Lumberton Elementary School in Lumberton, North Carolina.

UM Kappa Alpha member and senior John Grantham delivers school supplies collected by the chapter to Tara Bullard, principal at West Lumberton Elementary School in Lumberton, North Carolina.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Alpha Upsilon chapter of Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Mississippi recently helped Hurricane Matthew victims in Lumberton, North Carolina, by collecting and donating 288 backpacks filled with various school supplies to schools in the area.

The effort was spearheaded by John Grantham, a Lumberton native, Ole Miss senior and KA member

Grantham realized the severity of the devastation that had struck his hometown and felt compelled to assist the hurting community. He sought help from his fraternity brothers, and their efforts provided school supplies for every student at West Lumberton Elementary School.

“Being able to make such a positive impact on so many kids’ lives in such a terrible disaster in Lumberton, North Carolina, all the way from Oxford, Mississippi, speaks volumes of the character of guys we have here at KA,” Grantham said. “None of this would have been possible without the overwhelming amount of help and support I received from my fraternity brothers in organizing this backpack drive”

Thanks to a generous donation from Kirk Auto Brothers in Greenwood and the KA Philanthropy Fund, the chapter raised enough money overnight to purchase the 288 backpacks.

Once the backpacks were shipped to Oxford, the chapter started a Tilt campaign, and members shared it on social media. They raised more than $1,400 in a week.

West Lumberton Elementary School was hit hardest by the hurricane, which hit the East Coast on Oct. 8-9, and became the fraternity’s primary focus, Grantham said. However, the chapter was able to distribute more than 100 backpacks to other schools in Lumberton.

Grantham delivered the backpacks on Oct. 28, which was the Friday before school resumed the following Monday.

“Thank you to all your fraternity brothers that helped put these backpacks together,” said Tara Bullard, principal of West Lumberton Elementary School. “It is a blessing that we’re able to receive them today with school starting back on Monday.

“It means a lot to me, our school and the Lumberton community that you all helped contribute all the way from Mississippi.”

The tally of the damages left behind by Hurricane Matthew is ongoing. North Carolina officials say that more than 100,000 structures worth at least $1.5 billion were affected by the storm.

“It’s refreshing to see so many guys who are so eager to assist in circumstances like this,” said Saxon Nelson, KA chapter president. “Places and disasters can seem so far away and unrelated to Oxford, but when a brother is affected, it strikes a chord.”

Statement Regarding Swastikas Found in Elevator

Reports of images of swastikas found in a Residential College South elevator have been made to the University of Mississippi Department of Student Housing, the University of Mississippi announced in a statement released Friday (Nov. 11). Following a review of surveillance footage, a student has been referred to the Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct.

“We’re aware of this incident and we’re allocating every resource available within our department to address this situation,” said Lionel Maten, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and director of student housing. “Our top priority is the safety of our residents and maintaining an inclusive, healthy community conducive to the learning experience.”

As a community committed to our UM Creed and the success of our students and staff, we do not condone acts of bias and intolerance. This racist, anti-semitic symbol has no place at UM.

As Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter noted in his statement to the campus community earlier this week, “The safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors is our top priority. We will not tolerate violent or threatening behavior.”

We encourage all residents to report incidents to the proper authorities. Any time a community member is fearful or needs immediate support, contact the University Police Department at 662-915-7234. To report a bias incident, which includes conduct, speech or expressions that are threatening, harassing, intimidating, discriminatory, or hostile and are motivated by a person’s identity or group affiliation, please complete a Bias Incident Report Form.