In yesterday’s second annual University of Mississippi town hall meeting, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter ticked off a lengthy list of the school’s recent achievements and seemed to offer reassurances that the administration fully embraces the school’s nickname, the Ole Miss Rebels.
Ole Miss is “poised for the next level of success” and will go “from great to greater” in the coming years, Vitter said in his “State of the U” address, delivered at the town hall meeting in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at the Inn at Ole Miss. He pointed to the “four pillars” of a strategic plan on which Ole Miss will build in the coming years—academic excellence; healthy and vibrant communities; people, places and resources; and athletic excellence.
“It’s a plan that’s a direct result of the meeting we had here last year,” Vitter said, noting the 2016 town hall meeting gathered 550 ideas from faculty, staff, students and Oxford residents that helped “establish the meat of the plan.”
Vitter touted the university’s many successes over the past year, including the role played by Ole Miss scientists in proving Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves; the new School of Medicine building; the purchase of Baptist Memorial Hospital to support an ever-growing campus; a renovated Student Union; the hiring of Dr. Katrina Caldwell as the vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement; and a new home for the School of Applied Sciences, to name a few.
Vitter also pointed to efforts to boost UM’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum. Once completed, the university’s new $140 million STEM building “will be a game-changer for our students and their education,” he said.
Vitter also seemed to reassure fans and alumni who worry the Ole Miss Rebel nickname will be discarded as politically incorrect.
“We and only we control the meaning of Ole Miss Rebel,” he said. “And an Ole Miss Rebel is a rebel with a cause—to make a difference in our world as an innovator, a mentor, a teacher, a teammate, a caregiver, a champion of others, a fiercely loyal family member, an entrepreneur, a trendsetter, a leader. That’s our meaning of Ole Miss Rebel.”
He continued: “Being an Ole Miss Rebel means we stand up for one another. It means we do not shy from difficult discussions. It means we neither hide from nor hide our past. It means every voice matters, and it means we move forward together for a shared vision of our future.”
Vitter also praised the student body for choosing “a more widely embraced mascot” in the Landshark. “We’re moving forward with the new Landshark as a mascot that unifies and depicts the positive spirit and strength of our athletic program and student-athletes,” he said.
Meanwhile, contextualization of controversial statues and sites around campus will continue, with nine contextualization plaques and markers to be added, he noted.
“Since one building’s namesake, namely Vardaman Hall, was judged to be exceptionally at odds with the values of the time, we will seek to rename it,” he said, referring to the building named for white supremacist James K. Vardaman, a Mississippi politician in the early 1900s.
Rick Hynum is the editor-in-chief of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.