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UM Announces Plan for Leadership on Issues of Race and Diversity

Chancellor releases report on campus environment, creates new position of vice chancellor for diversity

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones has released a comprehensive action plan for fostering a more inclusive and welcoming environment on campus.

The recommendations are the fruit of a study of wide-ranging opinions on campus culture from students, faculty and administrators, which were paired with input from respected consultants. The plan includes a new position of vice chancellor for diversity and a variety of initiatives focused on inclusion and race relations.

Last summer, an expanded Sensitivity and Respect Committee completed its review of the university’s environment on race and diversity. After the committee’s report, consultants Ed Ayers and Christy Coleman of Richmond, Virginia, were brought in to study the effect on campus culture of building names and campus symbols tied to historical issues of slavery and segregation. Consultant Greg Vincent, who led the University of Texas in addressing issues of diversity and inclusion, was hired to analyze the university’s organizational structure and how it relates to diversity and inclusion.

The consultants submitted reports on their interviews with members of the campus community, as well as recommendations based on their experiences with similar issues. Jones complimented the work of the university community and consultants in generating the ideas included in the action plan.

“The reports from everyone involved were candid and thoughtful in suggesting that more can be done here to improve our environment for diversity and inclusion,” Jones said.

“It is my hope that the steps outlined here – reflecting the hard work of university committees and our consultants – will prove valuable in making us a stronger and healthier university, bringing us closer to our goal of being a warm and welcoming place for every person every day, regardless of race, religious preference, country of origin, ability, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or gender expression.”

Jones said he knows that some people will find parts of the recommendations that they like and some they don’t. “Every idea was not included, but I’m confident everyone involved will find evidence of their substantial contributions.

“There were and will continue to be differences of opinion among us. But, I am encouraged that while our discussions over recent months were frank, even tough, they also were civil and respectful. My very sincere thanks go out to all of those who demonstrated these values throughout the process.”

The process was designed to gather as broad a range of opinion as possible, the chancellor said.

“It was important that we hear from everyone who loves this university,” he said. “Too often when viewpoints are wide-ranging, nuanced and emotional, the easy answer for leaders is a non-decision, freezing people at a point in time and putting progress off to another day. To me, that is not leadership. And our mission as a university is to lead.”

The plan involves six steps, with more initiatives expected when the new vice chancellor position is filled:

1. Create a vice chancellor-level position for diversity and inclusion. UM’s provost will create a specific position title, portfolio, set of responsibilities and initial budget for a new administrative position. The job will be created after consultation with faculty and will be subject to approval by the university’s governing board. A search committee will be formed to begin work during the fall semester.

2. Establish a portfolio model of diversity and engagement. As part of the creation of the job description for the new vice chancellor position, a set of standards for diversity and engagement will be drafted for the university to follow moving forward.

3. Deal squarely with the issue of race while also addressing other dimensions of diversity.

“We look forward to a day when it is the norm to embrace and celebrate our differences, when our country and state have become a truly post-racial society,” Jones said. “But that day has not yet arrived. Clearly, there are still issues regarding race that our country must address. And we will need to continue a dialogue on race at our university. Our unique history regarding race provides not only a larger responsibility for providing leadership on race issues, but also a large opportunity – one we should and will embrace.”

A faculty group focused on UM’s history with slavery began work last year. The initiative is an example of the kind of scholarly leadership UM can provide on the issue, Jones said, voicing renewed commitment to the work of the university’s William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. He also said the new vice chancellor for diversity will be engaged in efforts to address issues of race and diversity and will work with existing campus organizations, such as the Critical Race Studies Group, that have focused on these issues.

4. Implement a symbolic and formal dedication of all new students to the ideals of inclusion and fairness to which UM is devoted.

The UM Creed was adopted as a means of communicating and cultivating the university’s core values. A public university can’t require a pledge or oath as a condition of enrollment. It can and will work with students and others to pursue methods of elevating and strengthening the UM community with the creed’s values. The university’s vice chancellor for student affairs will implement this recommendation.

5. Offer more history, putting the past into context, telling more of the story of Mississippi’s struggles with slavery, secession, segregation and their aftermath. 

Consultants cited Richmond, one of capitals of the Confederacy, as a good example of appropriately addressing a negative history. City leaders opted not to erase history, even some of the more difficult parts of it, and chose not to remove existing statues and building names. Instead, the city has balanced its presentation of history by offering broader, contemporary context for symbols and adding new symbols more representative of the city’s current culture.

An example of that approach already implemented at UM is the statue honoring James Meredith, the university’s first African-American student. Additional opportunities with more contemporary symbols lie ahead, and the new vice chancellor will be engaged in long-term evaluation of those recommendations. Until the new vice chancellor is hired, that job will be handled by the provost and the assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs.

Among buildings and symbols that will be evaluated for plaques adding context and perspective are Vardaman Hall, the ballroom in Johnson Commons and the Confederate statue at the entrance to Lyceum Circle.

Several steps have been taken already:

– The entrance of the Manning Center was recently designated the Williams-Reed Foyer in honor of Ben Williams and James Reed, the university’s first two black football players. Jones thanked Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze for their leadership in the recommendation.

– The new Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement opens this fall in Stewart Hall. The center, which will move later to the renovated and expanded Student Union, enhances the quantity and quality of programming and leadership initiatives for underrepresented students.

– Coliseum Drive will need a new name when the Tad Smith Coliseum is replaced with the new basketball arena. A recommendation from the UM Alumni Association and the M-Club to rename it “Roy Lee ‘Chucky’ Mullins Drive” has been adopted. Mullins, a black football player who was paralyzed and later died, became a unifying symbol of an indomitable human spirit at the university.

– Confederate Drive, which enters Fraternity Row, will be renamed “Chapel Lane.”

6. Appropriate use of the name “Ole Miss.” UM’s longstanding nickname is beloved by the vast majority of its students and alumni. But a few, especially some university faculty, are uncomfortable with it. Some don’t want it used at all and some simply don’t want it used within the academic context.

The university completed a national study about the name “Ole Miss” during the last year and found the vast majority of respondents don’t attach any meaning to it other than an affectionate name for the university. In fact, a significant margin likes and prefers the “Ole Miss” name. And a very small percentage of respondents associate the university, either as “Ole Miss” or “University of Mississippi,” with negative race issues.

Both names will be used in appropriate contexts going forward, with particular emphasis going to “Ole Miss” in athletics and as a representation of the university’s spirit.

Other campus efforts already in place will continue to grow 

The action plan includes a wide variety of other initiatives launched even as the study of campus environment was underway, including creation of the Bias Incident Response Team, diversity training for employees, construction of a National Pan-Hellenic Council garden representing the history and campus engagement of historically black fraternities and sororities, periodic surveys to monitor the campus environment, and various programs to enhance student success.

Walgreens Helps UM Faculty Open Students’ Eyes to Pharmacy Profession, Increase Diversity

… Murrah and Bailey Magnet high schools participate in program

Two Jackson high school students participate in a laboratory exercise under the direction of Kris Harrell, director of professional experience programs and associate professor of pharmacy practice in the UM School of Pharmacy.

With funding from Walgreens, the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy is continuing an initiative that is dramatically increasing diversity among its student body.

The funds enable the school to provide students at Jackson’s Murrah High School and Bailey Magnet High School with opportunities to learn about the pharmacy profession and to allocate a scholarship to one of those students. This is the third consecutive year that Walgreens has provided support for the program.

“It’s of tremendous value to have the opportunity to enhance diversity in our profession within the state,” said Chris McLaurin, pharmacy supervisor for Walgreens. “It’s wonderful to have local students interested in our profession and to remain in-state. It benefits everyone.”Read the story …

Journalism Student, Faculty Member Recognized for Diversity Efforts

University of Mississippi journalism lecturer Robin Street and members of her student committee received a second honor in a month for their Diversity Rocks campaign. Street received the faculty Diversity Award and public policy major Ray Mays received the student Diversity Award at the annual Black and White Affair. The student committee members received special certificates. Pictured, left to right are (front row) student committee members Ignacio Murillo and Molly Jarabica, along with student winner Mays. Back row: Kaylen Addison, ASB director of diversity affairs, who presented the awards, stands with committee member Jajuan McNeil, Street and committee member Kristie Warino.

OXFORD, Miss. – For the second time in a month, a University of Mississippi journalism faculty member has been honored for her commitment to diversity, along with a student who is working to promote racial dialogue at Ole Miss.

Robin Street, lecturer in journalism who specializes in teaching public relations classes, received the faculty Diversity Award for a campaign she created called “Diversity Rocks” for the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “Diversity Rocks” celebrated diversity, whether through ethnic origin, sexual orientation or disability, with an emphasis on anti-bullying. Street was aided by a 14-member committee of public relations students who were also recognized at the award ceremony.Ray Mays, a public policy major from Darling, Miss., received the student Diversity Award for his work with One Mississippi, a student coalition that promotes social integration. As director of dialogue for the group, Mays organizes dialogue meetings between members of different races and cultures to ensure every student feels welcomed and respected.

“The selfless work that Robin and Ray have done to promote diversity in their roles as faculty and student has not gone unnoticed and the selection committee members felt that their hard work should be acknowledged and celebrated,” said Valeria Beasley Ross, assistant dean of students for multicultural affairs and volunteer services.
Read the story …

Clarion Ledger: Census shows diversity grows in Miss.

UM professor quoted on the results of the latest Census.

Solo Theater Performance, Workshop Oct. 16 Mark LGBT History, Diversity Awareness

OXFORD, Miss. – A monodrama performance and workshop on documentary theater are scheduled Oct. 16 at the University of Mississippi to recognize October as LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) History Month and National Diversity Awareness Month. The events are free to the public.

Read the story …

Student Gender Conference Features Keynote on Educational Equity, Diversity

OXFORD, Miss. – World-renowned lecturer Peggy McIntosh, associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, delivers the keynote address Thursday (Feb. 25) to open the 10th annual Student Gender Conference at the University of Mississippi.

Read the story …

Walgreens Partners with School of Pharmacy to Promote Diversity Initiative

Miss. – The UM School of Pharmacy is partnering with Walgreens as part
of a new initiative to increase diversity among pharmacy students.

the nation’s largest drugstore chain, has donated $10,000 a year to 111
pharmacy schools around the country, including the UM School of
Pharmacy. This donation is to fund a nationwide initiative to increase
the number of minority students who enroll in pharmacy schools.

initiative is an important way to give back to the community, said
Kimsey Cooper, district pharmacy supervisor for Walgreens and an alumna
of the UM pharmacy school.

“Walgreens has taken an active role
in promoting the importance of a pharmacist’s role within our local
communities,” Cooper said. “I emphatically believe those pharmacists
are the face that most patients come to first for patient care. This
initiative, in my opinion, is a wonderful opportunity to give back to
the local communities as well as make a positive impact on our society.”

Read the story …

Stanford Law Professor to Lecture on Diversity Challenges April 2

Miss. – One of the nation’s leading scholars in the fields of legal
ethics and gender will deliver a public address at 4 p.m. Thursday
(April 2) at the University of Mississippi.

Deborah Rhode,
Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law at Stanford University, will speak
on “Challenges for the Legal Profession: Diversity and Access to
Justice” in the William N. Ethridge Jr. Moot Court Room of the Lamar
Law Center. The author of 20 books, Rhode is among the most frequently
cited scholars in legal ethics.

 “She is one of the most highly
regarded scholars in the country,” said Michael Hoffheimer, professor
of law. “She does influential, cutting-edge research on law and ethics,
and on women in the law. No issue is more critical than diversity for
securing the integrity of the rule of law, so her topic will be of
great public interest.”

Read the story …

Black and White’ Gala Encourages Social Diversity, Celebration on Campus

OXFORD, Miss. – As part of the University of Mississippi’s continuing
efforts to promote social diversity, the Multicultural Affairs Division
of the Dean of Student’s Office and the Associated Student Body are
hosting a gala Wednesday (Oct. 29) to help bring students together and
expand their social networks.

The Black and White Affair, in its second year, is scheduled 6:30-11
p.m. in Johnson Commons Ballroom. Free and open to the public, the
event is to feature live entertainment, including a jazz band,
open-floor dancing and refreshments. Attendees are encouraged to wear
black and/or white semi-formal attire.

Read the story …

Two UM Faculty Win Inaugural National Science Foundation Fellowships

Ryan Garrick and Saša Kocić among 30 nationwide selected for competitive research program

Ryan Garrick, UM assistant professor of biology, examines insects as part of his research on the effects of environmental change. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi professors have been honored for innovative research in their respective fields by being selected for fellowships in a competitive new National Science Foundation program.

Ryan Garrick, assistant professor of biology, and Saša Kocić, assistant professor of mathematics, have been chosen for funding under NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The Research Infrastructure Improvement Track 4 program is designed to help junior investigators in EPSCoR-eligible states develop career-spanning collaborations through extended visits to other premiere research institutions around the nation.

Garrick will conduct his fellowship at Ohio State University, while Kocić will visit the University of California at Irvine.

Of 136 proposals considered by NSF in this competition, only 30 awards were made across 27 universities, for a funding rate of 22 percent. UM was among only three institutions receiving two fellowship awards in the competition.

Both recipients said they were pleasantly surprised by their selection.

“After many attempts to secure federal funding to support research and career development, during a time that appears to be a particularly difficult period for faculty doing basic research, finally having some success was a relief,” Garrick said.

“This award is certainly very special to me,” Kocić said. “Many people at University of Mississippi and beyond have helped me in that process. I am extremely grateful to all of them and glad that all that effort was not in vain.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulated Garrick and Kocić for their achievements.

“We are so pleased to see the success of our researchers in this highly competitive program,” Vitter said. “Their tremendous achievements help drive discovery and creativity on our campus and enhance our undergraduate and graduate education.

“I congratulate Drs. Garrick and Kocić for how their innovation, collaboration and research bolster UM’s role as a Carnegie R1 highest research activity institution.”

The awards reflect the promise shown by both researchers’ work, said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

“That the university received not just one, but two awards in this crowded competition is especially gratifying and shows that the National Science Foundation sees the same great potential that we do in the research careers of both Dr. Garrick and Dr. Kocić,” Gladden said.

“NSF EPSCoR funding has helped to launch the careers of many successful researchers at Ole Miss and across the state, with more than $80 million in research infrastructure investments in Mississippi over the last 25 years.”

Each institution was allowed to submit only three applications. Garrick and Kocić each discussed the scope and goals of his particular research project.

Saša Kocić, UM assistant professor of mathematics, is continuing his study of dynamic systems and mathematical physics, which promises to help scientists better understand such diverse phenomena as heart function and stock market fluctuations. Photo by Thomas Graining/Ole Miss Communications

“Biodiversity, or the variety of species in an ecosystem, is declining in many areas of the world due to environmental change,” said Garrick, principal investigator on a project examining “Enhancement of technical and analytical skills for the application of genomics to research in molecular ecology and comparative phylogeography.”

With $110,413 over the next two years, he will collaborate with colleagues at Ohio State to understand how the numbers and genetic variability of four invertebrate species found in southern Appalachian forests change as their environment changes.

“This fellowship will enable research using genetic techniques to study how organisms have responded to past and present environmental change,” he said. “It will also generate new opportunities for sustained collaboration with the host institution.

“Findings will advance understanding of whether whole communities have the ability to respond to environmental change together, or as individual species. This information will aid in conservation and management of U.S. forest fauna.”

Kocić is the principal investigator on a project focusing on “Sharp arithmetic transitions and universality in one-frequency quasiperiodic systems.”

With his $161,681 two-year grant, he and a graduate student will initiate a new collaboration between the university and UC-Irvine, in particular with Svetlana Jitomirskaya, one of the top experts in dynamical systems and mathematical physics. The project will develop and apply state-of-the-art tools for studying dynamical systems, which will allow mathematicians to obtain new results by looking at systems at different spatial and time scales, revealing shared properties.

“Dynamical systems is a large area of mathematics that concerns the evolution of different systems and phenomena, ranging from the motion of celestial bodies to heart function to fluctuations in the stock market,” Kocić said. “The project is centered around a powerful tool called renormalization that acts as a ‘microscope’ and allows one to look at systems at different spatial and time scales, revealing properties of the systems that are universal, that is, shared by a large class of systems.”

There is a broad range of phenomena where these tools have led to an explanation. The transition between the liquid and gas phases – boiling and evaporation – is one familiar example.

A particular focus of this project will be on sharp transitions and universality in two types of systems: relatively simple systems that underlie more complicated systems, and systems arising from quantum physics, Kocić said.

“This project will lead to advancement of both areas, strengthen the research program in dynamical systems and mathematical physics at UM, and enhance its undergraduate and graduate education,” he said.

“This collaboration will be very important not only for my career and the field of research, but also for my current and future students, our dynamical systems group, the mathematics department and the whole of the University of Mississippi.”

Garrick’s fellowship is funded by NSF grant 1738817; Kocic’s by NSF grant 1738834.

The mission of EPSCoR is to enhance research competitiveness of targeted jurisdictions – states, territories or commonwealths – by strengthening STEM capacity and capability. EPSCoR envisions its targeted jurisdictions as being recognized as strong contributors to the national and global STEM research enterprise.