Mississippi’s former higher education commissioner will be the next chancellor of the University of Mississippi despite the protests of students who shouted down his announcement ceremony Friday with cries of “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
Glenn Boyce’s appointment was supposed to be revealed at an on-campus hotel ballroom in Oxford, but protesters who were outraged over a lack of campus input refused to be silent. After police wrestled student protester Cam Calisch out of the room, the university’s police chief announced the event was canceled.
Less than an hour later, College Board trustees sent out a news release announcing they had voted unanimously to appoint Boyce to the post.
Boyce was earlier hired by the university’s private foundation to meet with influential individuals about the search. Boyce denied then he was seeking the job. He told The Associated Press, though, that he’s motivated by a desire to serve a university that attracted him sight unseen to Mississippi decades ago from his native New York state. Boyce earned a bachelor’s and doctoral degree from Ole Miss, with a master’s degree from Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College.
“I credit this university with giving me the leadership skills and knowledge that I needed as I advanced throughout my career.” Boyce said.
The 61-year-old deferred questions about the selection process to trustees, but acknowledged divisions.
“I’m going to work to unify the Ole Miss community,” he said.
Ford Dye, an Oxford trustee who led the selection process, said in the news release that trustees heard that people wanted “someone with strong and experienced leadership skills, broad higher-education expertise, who knows and understands our state.”
“We listened, and believe Glenn exemplifies those traits,” Dye said.
It’s the second major southern university in recent months where a leadership selection was marred by protests. Trustees at the University of South Carolina in July went ahead with naming retired Army general Bob Caslen as president, even after students and professors said the search there was flawed, protesting Caslen’s lack of a doctoral degree or research university experience.
There are parallel issues at Ole Miss. Boyce served as president of central Mississippi’s Holmes Community College from 2005 to 2014, earlier leading efforts in workforce development for Holmes and serving as assistant superintendent and principal in the Rankin County school district in suburban Jackson. He was hired to be associate higher education commissioner in 2014, but ended up as commissioner less than a year later when trustees’ first choice backed out.
Trustees voted in closed session to name Boyce on Thursday, after interviewing a number of candidates. However, campus groups had expected a second round of interviews, with some consultation, followed by a finalist visiting campus to meet with students, faculty, staff and alumni before trustees voted.
Matuh Abron, a member of Students Against Social Injustice and a junior sociology major from Texas, said trustees were “railroading this candidate that no one in the university knew or had a chance to give feedback on.”
About 40 protesters filed into the campus ballroom where the announcement was to be held, with dozens more outside. At one point, they countered the traditional Ole Miss cheer of “Hotty Toddy” with “IHL, what the hell?” using the acronym for the official name of the governing body, the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning.
Calisch, a senior anthropology major from Pensacola, Florida, said she hoped the protest would further a demand to dismantle the board and do more to let the university govern itself. She said she wasn’t arrested, but forced to leave when she was picked up and wrestled out of the room.
She notes that campus groups voted in favor of moving a statue of a Confederate soldier on the Oxford campus to a less prominent location, a move that’s awaiting a trustee vote amid opposition from some. That’s just the current battle in a seemingly never-ending struggle over how the university should deal with the symbolism of the Confederacy and white supremacy.
Boyce said he has “not made any commitments” in regards to the statue, and said he would “visit” with campus groups about the relocation push.
Boyce also will inherit declining enrollment, an ailing football team, and heavy fundraising demands to pay debt for athletic facilities and raise money for a stalled giant science complex.
He pledges to be visible in student recruiting, including visiting high schools, a favored tactic of Mark Keenum, the president at rival Mississippi State University.
“We are going to redouble our efforts to recruit our in-state students, and our out-of-state students are very important,” Boyce said.
He also promised more effective outreach to the conservative Republicans who run the state, saying he would “make our leaders feel welcome to campus and show them the university is working effectively.”
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