Chancellor Dan Jones has declined the Mississippi IHL Board of Trustees’ compromise to extend his contract by two years if he committed to retiring on June 2017.
Chancellor Jones wrote in his letter that he emailed to University of Mississippi students, faculty and staff he learned that no matter how well he performed up to June 2017 it would not affect the board to extend his contract beyond that year. Chancellor Jones traveled to meet with Dr. Jim Borsig, commissioner-elect for the Board, and a number of Board members after their initial compromise offer to negotiate that his contract be continued without the outcome of his leadership predetermined, but he realized the Board wouldn’t reconsider.
And so today at 2 p.m. the chancellor held a press release where he then read from the letter to his “Ole Miss family” in front of several cameras and a crowded room that flooded out into people sitting on the stairs just outside the doors. A loud applause sounded when he entered the room.
Chancellor Jones explained in the letter that he felt the university would not benefit from his “serving two years as a lame duck” because then it would be difficult for the university to recruit and retain leaders as well as keeping up its momentum in donations.
“For these reasons, it is in the university’s best interest for me to not accept the Board’s offer,” said Chancellor Jones.
He commented the IHL Board will make a better decision in choosing the next chancellor since it has heard resounding support from University of Mississippi students and faculty, alumni and supporters.
The Board and Chancellor Jones disagreed over his handling of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. The chancellor asserted that he and UMMC vice chancellor Dr. Jimmy Keeton had years of experience in dealing with the complex operations of UMMC.
He said, “It’s time for us to have a conversation about the governance structure for higher education in the state. I don’t agree with this decision but it is the Board’s authority to make this decision.”
A part of his reason in challenging the Board’s decision was to cause a public conversation on higher education in Mississippi.
He did ask that everyone live by the spirit of the university creed and treat the IHL Board with civility. He said in the letter and at the press conference: “Please remember (Commissioner Borsig) was thrown into the middle of a difficult situation and was not involved in any of the decisions about my future.”
One of the terms the IHL Board had asked of him in its compromise on the contract extension is an apology which he has done in the past years with the Board. Chancellor Jones said, “I’m happy to apologize but a coerced apology isn’t of use to anyone.”
Chancellor Jones believes he has done nothing to justify the Board’s decision to renew his contract and is at peace with his leadership. He said, “I’m not much of a lamb. Everyone has their own personality and I’m very much at peace with how I attempted to lead. Certainly my job would have been easier for the past several years if the university had its own separate governing board.”
He then thanked Representative Brad Mayo and Senator Gray Tollison for their “recent thoughts about higher education,” in reference to the breaking up the IHL Board.
The chancellor hopes he has left a positive legacy at the University of Mississippi. “If people remember my name associated with service I’d be happy,” said Chancellor Jones. “And when we win the national championship, remember I hired Coach Hugh Freeze and Ross Bjork.”
The people in the room laughed, even the media reporters.
Chancellor Jones continued on a roll, saying, “I’ve got a bald head now and no eyebrows. Maybe it would be a convenient time for me to retire.”
But he does not plan to retire after his term’s end this September. He will take some time to consider opportunities of working with organizations post-term but he is not contemplating any legal action.
As he stepped back from the podium a long round of applause sounded. He walked into the crowd, chatting, shaking hands and even giving a fist bump to a supporter. Rapid clicks of cameras resounded in the hallways as the chancellor walked down a long flight of stairs to his office.
Callie Daniels is a staff reporter for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.