OXFORD • Barron Mayfield has a question for anyone who wants to be the next chancellor at the University of Mississippi: “What is your vision for what the university is going to be?”
“It’s no secret the university is changing,” said Mayfield, the Associated Student Body president. “We’re going from what we used to be to – what now? I don’t know. And there’s no vision of what we’re going to be as an institution. We need someone who’s going to be a strong leader and answer the question of where we’re going as a university.”
He, along with 38 other people, was selected last Friday to serve on the Campus Search Advisory Committee for the University of Mississippi chancellor search following former Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter’s abrupt resignation last November.
Advisory committee members will have the opportunity to interview candidates in the running to lead the state’s largest public university. Mississippi’s governing college board, the Institutions of Higher Learning, will name the preferred candidate.
To this date, Vitter, who became the university’s shortest-tenured chancellor since 1849, has not publicly given a reason for his resignation and remains a tenured faculty member at the university.
The search for a new chancellor begins after a string of contentious events at the university. During the last academic year, neo-Confederate activists marched on the university’s campus, eight basketball players knelt during the national anthem, the namesake of the university’s journalism school published a social media post that was widely condemned as racist and sexist, and all four governing bodies of the university called for the administration to relocate the Confederate monument that stands at the heart of the campus.
Faculty Senate Chair Brice Noonan also sits on the advisory committee. He said the next chancellor will be responsible for dealing with a lot of these issues and bringing together people who have different opinions on these topics.
“The chancellor is the one that is meeting all these different people,” Noonan said. “He or she can’t just bring them into the room and make them agree. That’s never going to happen. He has to effectively communicate with them, though.”
Noonan didn’t have an opinion on how the next chancellor should handle these issues, but he does want a candidate with experience in higher education, whether that’s through teaching or working in university administration.
Dr. Patrick Smith, the associate dean of medical affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is another advisory committee member. Smith said he is looking for someone to be a “collaborative leader” with the medical center.
The advisory committee represents a cross-section of the university’s major constituent groups, including current students, faculty members, administrators, alumni and Oxford area figures.
The advisory committee will meet Friday in the ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss in Oxford to discuss the search.
IHL selected the 39 members of the advisory committee.
IHL Board President Hal Parker previously named all IHL board members as members of the board’s own chancellor search committee, with Ford Dye serving as search committee chair.