Five former editors of The Daily Mississippian, Ole Miss’ student newspaper for more than a century, added to the pile of letters flooding Mississippi’s IHL board of trustees protesting the decision not to renew Chancellor Dan Jones’ contract past the middle of September.
Dan Jones was chosen to become the university’s next chancellor only a few weeks after a new student-led staff had taken over The Daily Mississippian back in 2009. We scrapped our front-page plans the day the official announcement was made to run a full-page photo of him and his wife, Lydia, with the words, “Welcome to Ole Miss, Chancellor Jones.”
It wasn’t the first time Jones consumed the front page, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Most will remember Jones’ first year as one steeped in controversy over his decision to support two student-led initiatives involving an offensive chant and the development of a new mascot after Colonel Reb was removed from the field years earlier. A common misconception is that Jones spearheaded these issues himself, which simply wasn’t true. They were developed by student leaders who sought support from the administration; Jones responded by doing what he believed a university administrator is obligated to do: Support what the students want, particularly when it comes to spirit-related decisions.
Those tumultuous first semesters yielded countless articles, columns and editorial board meetings hinged upon this new chancellor and why he so willingly jumped in the middle of such controversial topics so soon. That staff found itself on the receiving end of hate mail, threats and a constant reminder that few on campus seemed to be on board with this new chancellor and his idea of change.
Over the years, we told the story of how the university evolved and ultimately thrived under Chancellor Jones. While the chancellor didn’t always agree with our reporting or the opinions published regarding his leadership, he respected our right to produce an editorially independent publication and made himself immediately available to us every step of the way.
Though student support for Dan Jones seems to have grown significantly compared to those first difficult months, our core belief about the chancellor has remained the same for six years and has continued to resonate through the pages of The DM throughout Jones’ tenure:
Dan Jones wants the best for the university and will do whatever it takes for it to succeed.
Even if it means being the most hated man on campus. Even if he risks losing his job because some members of the IHL think wearing a red and blue tie is all it takes to show support for the university while cutting it off at its knees.
Jones’ work at Ole Miss gave us an alma mater and a state we could be proud of. The indefensible decision to terminate him gives outsiders a reason to tell us why we’re wrong.
We are tired of apologizing for the state of Mississippi.
Past Editors of The Daily Mississippian