OXFORD • Meeting for the first time Friday, members of a Campus Search Advisory Committee said the next chancellor of the University of Mississippi should be a visionary leader who can unite the different stakeholders and constituents that make up Ole Miss.
“What I would like to see out of this chancellor is someone who can get this university back on track with a clear vision moving forward,” said Gregory Alston, former ASB President and University of Mississippi Law School President. “Somebody who has a relationship with a lot of the alumni and someone who can work with the state legislature.”
Ford Dye, the IHL Board Search chairman, announced there will be a smaller committee to come out of the 39-member advisory group. This smaller group will form the interview committee. He said this committee will interview the candidates at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. He did not say who the members of the interview committee were or if the list of the members would be made public.
“This may be the toughest job in Mississippi,” Dye said, referring to the chancellor job.
The search for the next chancellor comes after a string of contentious events this past year, with neo-Confederate activists marching onto campus, basketball players kneeling during the national anthem, and all four campus government organizations calling for the Confederate monument to be relocated.
“I think we should be looking for someone who appreciates the balance between who we’ve been and who we need to become in order to thrive going forward,” said committee member Markeeva Morgan.
This search process comes also after former chancellor Jeffrey Vitter abruptly resigned in November. He has not given a public reason for resigning. The university has had four different leaders in five years, with two chancellors and two interim chancellors.
After all committee members that were present voiced the qualities they were looking for in the next chancellor, Crymes Pittman, a committee member and Jackson-based lawyer, asked if the all the members of the IHL Board of Trustees at the meeting would say what they were looking for in the next chancellor.
None of the trustees spoke up and said what they were looking for except for Dye.
Dye responded by saying he wants the chancellor to be a dynamic leader, who understands the culture of Mississippi, is socially dynamic, has higher education experience, is good at fundraising, understands the importance of SEC athletics, can run a large organization, understands the medical center and can unify all of the constituents.
Committee member Don Williams asked if the salary would be limited or if it could be negotiable.
Dye said IHL had changed the policy regarding salaries. Dye said in the past, the state had paid half of the salary and donations had paid the other half. Dye didn’t state what the specific changes were, but did say the salary would be “competitive” and be “in the middle” of what other SEC schools offer. He did not give a specific salary amount.
Previously, former chancellor Vitter made $600,000.
The tentative timeline for the chancellor search anticipates the state college board selecting a prospective candidate by the end of the year.
In a timeline handed out to every committee member, IHL gives a 10-day period for committee members to rank their top chancellor candidates on a website between Aug. 30 and Sept. 9.
The first round of interviews will begin tentatively on Oct. 2, with the second round of interviews on Oct. 16. The preferred date the chancellor candidate will visit the campus is on Oct. 25.
The state College Board has also retained Buffkin Baker, a hiring firm, to assist in the search.
After the meeting, the state’s Commissioner of Higher Education Al Rankins declined to take any questions or issue any statement to the press.
Committee members were required to sign confidentiality agreements barring them from discussing potential candidates with anyone outside of the committee.
On Thursday, June 20, people will have a chance to express what kind of a chancellor they wish to see during the first listening session hosted by IHL at UMMC, beginning at 2 p.m. The sessions will be divided into smaller sub-sessions with opportunities for students, faculty and staff and alumni.