The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning voted Thursday not to renew the contract of Chancellor Dan Jones after six years at the helm of the University of Mississippi, causing a firestorm of reaction from those for and against the decision.
Jones, who was diagnosed with lymphoma last November and had been working from an office at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, had returned to Oxford last week to resume his duties in house.
Since the decision, IHL commissioner Jim Borsig met with NewsWatch 99 and The Daily Mississippian and discussed the board’s 9-2 decision not to renew the contract, which expires Sept. 14 of this year.
IHL commissioner Jim Borsig spoke with Ole Miss student media center editors Sudu Upadhyay and Logan Kirkland about the decision after a statement was released from the board of trustees citing “concerns centered on financial issues at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, over which the Board of Trustees has the constitutional duty to provide fiduciary oversight, as it does for all public universities.”
“All eight university presidents work for the board of trustees, and the board of trustees expected those issues that were identified by the board to be addressed and to be fixed,” Borsig said in the interview.
Borsig said he could not elaborate because the discussion was focused on a personnel matter. He also continues to refer to an audit discussed in a February board of trustees meeting that was part of but not the entire reason for not renewing the chancellor’s contract.
“That audit did identify issues to be addressed. The audit is not the important point in the conversation,” Bosig said. “The audit came at the end of several years of work to correct the concerns of the board around contract administration. The audit itself confirms that those issues had not been addressed. It’s financial related, it’s business management related. It’s not an impropriety concerning finances.”
Former chancellor Robert Khayat weighed in on the issue in a Clarion-Ledger column Sunday. Kyahat, who served as chancellor for 14 years, had previously spoken publicly about wanting the university, and others in Mississippi, to have more control over university business.
“Perhaps this evil deed — clearly motived by personal and/or political reasons and not on performance — will prompt someone in a leadership position to initiate a move to transform the current dysfunctional and wasteful IHL system and authorize each university to have its own board.
“Clearly the current model is a failure.”
Since the decision was announced, students, faculty and alums have responded en masse, both in favor of the board’s decision and in defense of Jones.
Rebel football legend Archie Manning made a public statement about the situation, opening with the positive impact Jones has made on the state’s flagship university and ending with a positive note for the community.
“We will come through this together as the Ole Miss family always does,” Manning said. “It is my hope that somehow the decision not to renew Dr. Jones contract can be reconsidered if possible. I know full well how rare it is to find a talented, caring and dedicated leader. We are blessed to have such a leader in Dan Jones and for that, we are thankful.”
During an event Sunday night to create signs for a peaceful protest later in the week, supports of the chancellor came out in droves.
Eleanor Anthony, co-editor of Populi Magazine and senior philosophy major, said, “I’m deeply saddened by the IHL’s decision to not renew Chancellor Jones’ contract. I believe in many of values Chancellor Jones has fought to uphold, and I believe the University, while we have experienced setbacks, has made progress towards becoming a more inclusive community under his leadership. It is my hope that the IHL will reconsider their decision and adopt a more transparent decision-making process in the future.”
Alex Borst, international studies major and one of the protest leaders, said, “This movement stands for nothing short of increased IHL transparency as well as the reinstatement of OUR chancellor.”
A group known as the Students for Chancellor Jones drafted a response to the IHL’s statement, sent to us by Ole Miss journalism student and group member Phillip Waller:
We are encouraging students, faculty and members of the University family to reach out to their friends, family and community leaders to express their concern over this decision by the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. We are encouraged by the overwhelming support that has been pouring out for Dr. Jones. We urge the IHL board towards their stated goals of accountability and transparency in this process. We look forward to a rigorous discussion in the coming days and weeks and look forward to their response to our letter and the letters of so many concerned members of the Ole Miss family.
We want to bring your attention to the over 4,000 signatures on this Change.org petition and the over 1,500 confirmed attendees of the student rally in the Circle on Wednesday at noon. We expect even more of an outpouring of support in the coming days.
On top of the peaceful rally scheduled for Wednesday, supporters are also planning to be present at the IHL board’s meeting at 4 p.m. today in Jackson.