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New chancellor proud of growth at Ole Miss

NATCHEZ — The University of Mississippi’s Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones visited with alumni in Natchez Monday and brought them up to date on enrollment, growing pains and the end of Colonel Reb.

Jones is the 14th chancellor to operate and manage the four-campus university.

Jones said the university is moving in the right direction in spite of the economy as they welcomed the largest, and brightest, freshmen class in the history of the school and state. More than 3,000 students came aboard this school year.

“The record number of students is an encouragement as well as economic salvation,” Jones said. “The tuition provides revenue to keep us moving in a positive direction, but we are experiencing growing pains as well.”

Jones said finding places for so many new students to sleep, park and eat has been a task. He said he expects next year’s freshmen class to be even larger.

With new residence halls going up, university officials plan to add 2,000 beds within the next three years.

Jones is proud of the growing positive reputation of academic programs like the honors college, which has 285 students enrolled.

“Not only are we improving in quantity, but in quality also,” Jones said.

Jones praised the International Studies program at Ole Miss, highlighting the Chinese language program which has achieved flagship status at the university.

The university’s pharmacology program continues to hold its rank as one of the best schools in the country, and a new law center will be dedicated on April 15.

Pulitzer-prize winning author Richard Ford joined the University of Mississippi creative writing faculty this fall as a senior fiction writer.

“Literature is an imperative part of our culture, so it’s important to have the most senior Mississippi writer involved with our creative writing program,” Jones said.

Jones said while enrollment numbers and influx of exceptional students is unprecedented, the university is still facing tough times.

The university used to receive 50 percent of it’s funding from the state, but that number has been cut to 25 percent. Jones said he fears funding might be cut to 15 percent.

“That’s a lot of money to lose, and a lot of money to make up,” Jones said. “Tuition helps, but we are strained, and the biggest strain is on our faculty. Faculty is the backbone of the university, and we must stay competitive. We are in jeopardy of losing people we can’t lose.”

Jones encouraged alumni to continue helping their alma mater by keeping a positive spirit and giving.

“Share a positive word about Ole Miss,” Jones said. “Help us continue to recruit students. We want students from this area to have the Ole Miss experience. And if you are able, please continue your financial support.”

One of the tough questions Jones fielded concerned the backlash over losing the mascot, Colonel Reb.

“Some people have very strong affection for Colonel Reb,” Jones said. “Colonel Reb was a complicated figure for the university. Once you decide it’s not a unifying symbol, you can’t go back to it.”

Jones said choosing to let the mascot go has hurt feelings, but has not affected giving.

“I feel the pain,” Jones said.

“For some this is a very important issue, and I regret the pain. But other people are anxious to move on.”

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