OXFORD • The governing body of the state’s higher education system named Glenn Boyce as chancellor of the University of Mississippi on Friday amid protests, dissent and a chaotic scene that engulfed and ultimately canceled a formal announcement planned for mid-day.
Boyce was selected by the 12-member Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning and was officially named for the post in a statement released Friday. He is expected to begin the job in about a week, by Oct. 13.
In a conference call with reporters on Friday afternoon, Boyce touted his personal ties to the university and pledged to bring campus constituencies together.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am today to be here and to represent the University of Mississippi as chancellor,” Boyce said. “I am looking forward to this position and I am excited about the fact that I can basically come home.”
No stranger to Mississippi university insiders, Boyce worked for the 12-member IHL board as the state’s former commissioner of higher education from 2015 to 2018. Before that, he was president of Holmes Community College for more than nine years.
He holds an undergraduate degree in education and a doctorate from the University of Mississippi, as well as a master’s degree from Mississippi College.
His selection has fractured members of the wider university community. Critics are angry that IHL abbreviated its search process and selected Boyce without any formal campus visit or input from an advisory community of students, alumni and community members.
“This has been a sham of a process,” said Conner Smith, a junior public policy leadership major from Madison who protested on Friday “They cut a three week interview process down to three days.”
IHL had planned to publicly announce the Boyce hire at noon Friday in a conference space at The Inn at Ole Miss. University police ultimately canceled the event, citing safety and security concerns related to the presence of protesters.
Prior to the announced start time, the room packed to capacity and student protestors filed in after marching from the Grove and chanted a number of slogans condemning IHL and the selection of Boyce.
Eventually, IHL member Ford Dye took to the podium and tried to begin the event. He urged protestors to heed the university creed and “practice civility.”
As crosstalk and shouted questions from protestors continued, as well as some shouts from the seated audience, University Police Chief Ray Hawkins grappled with protestor Cam Calisch, picked her up and physically carried her out of the room through a back door.
She was ultimately released and as of Friday had not been charged with anything, though university spokesperson Rod Guajardo said “an investigation remains ongoing.”
Calisch, a senior anthropology major from Pensacola, Florida, said her forcible removal from the event shows IHL is “in the wrong” and has not allowed students to play a meaningful role in the selection of a chancellor.
“The thing that stuck out to me was most of the people sitting (at the press conference) were old, white people, and when I was carried out, they were cheering,” said Calisch. “They were cheering for students to be silenced.”
She said “Glenn Boyce is a fraud” and his selection “feels like IHL wants somebody to use as a pawn.”
Deep frustrations with the way the IHL board concluded its search process echoed beyond the borders of the Oxford campus.
In a tweet on Friday afternoon, the elected Central District Public Service Commissioner Cecil Brown praised Boyce but aired reservations about the conduct of IHL.
“Glenn Boyce is a good man and is my friend. But this not about Glenn,” Brown wrote. “Circumventing the process was a breach of trust by the board. The university should not be a political football. It belongs to all Mississippians, not to a few washed up politicians.”
Speaking with reporters on Friday, Boyce acknowledges that “some challenges” are ahead but said he will be “a strong communicator” and “a strong listener.”
He also pledged to prioritize students.
“First and foremost, I’ve always been a student-centered individual,” Boyce said. “I will be engaged with our students, highly visible to our students.”
In a written statement, Boyce sounded the same note and said he wants to make “the state’s flagship institution the most student-centered university in the nation.”
Controversy and conflict have dogged the office of chancellor through several cycles of turnover now.
In 2015, the IHL board forced Dan Jones out as chancellor, a move that also sparked protest and discord.
The next man to take the job, Jeffrey Vitter, abruptly resigned in late 2018, becoming the shortest tenured chancellor of the university since 1849.
Since Vitter’s departure, Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for administration and finance, was served as interim chancellor.
In June, the IHL board named a 39-member Campus Search Advisory Committee to aid in the selection of the new chancellor.
This committee – made up of students, faculty, administrators, alumni and community figures – was to provide input on applicants for the chancellor’s job and select members were to participate throughout multiple rounds of interviews with finalists.
The selection of Boyce circumvented that full process, as allowed by IHL policies. Boyce never formally applied for the job and was not vetted or considered by members of the advisory committee.
Even under the full process, however, only IHL members would ever have had a vote on the final selection of a candidate.
Dye, the IHL member who led the search process, described the work of recent months as “a very difficult search” with “a lot of twists and turns.”