Ole Miss alums upset over Jones’ recent firing

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Several local University of Mississippi alumni have expressed dismay and disappointment over the firing of university Chancellor Dan Jones by the state’s College Board, and expressed hope the board will reconsider its decision.

The College Board Thursday voted not to renew Jones’ contract, which expires in September, ending his 6-year tenure as chancellor. The news caught Jones, students and alumni by surprise, prompting calls from notable university graduates like Archie Manning and alum and former Ole Miss chancellor Robert Khayat for the board to reconsider its decision.

“I’m not sure we know all the facts or the alleged facts, but from what I’ve heard over the other newspaper reports or the television reports, it seems like to me rather drastic action for the issues they’re reporting,” said Bobby Bailess, a Vicksburg lawyer and member of the Ole Miss Alumni Association Executive Committee. The executive committee Monday released a letter supporting Jones.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

“I was frankly very surprised by the action that the board took. I had no inkling they were even considering it,” he said.

Board members said Tuesday policy violations occurred regarding spending and contract procurement at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Board members said the claims against Jones were outlined in an audit of the medical center commissioned by the board.

Board Vice President Alan Perry said the audit outlined violations by the medical center such as not getting board approval of contracts more than $250,000, not getting approval for leases more than $100,000, and failure to produce documents concerning contracts that the board and auditors challenged.

Bailess said Jones was well liked and respected for the job he did for the university.

“It appears that the College Board is not going to revisit their decision,” Bailess said. “That, I guess, remains to be seen. If they don’t, it’ll be, I would say, some difficult times to get everybody back on the same page.

“I would hope they would revisit it and find some way to renew the contract with some measures to be taken which would resolve the issues they’ve disclosed,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re not disclosing, and all we can do it take them at face value and assume they’re giving us the correct reasons why they did what they did.”

State Sen. Briggs Hopson III said Jones’ dismissal was disappointing and troubling.

“I’m sad that his contract was not renewed,” Hopson said. “Dan’s a personal friend and I’ve enjoyed working with him over the years. I don’t know all the details that led to his contract not being renewed, but I’m sad for him, personally, and I hate to see that happen.”

Jackson lawyer and alum Ben Bryant said he was very disappointed by the College Board’s decision.

“I think Dan Jones was doing an exceptional job as chancellor. I think he was carrying on what Robert Khayat had done very well,” he said.

Bryant, who grew up in Vicksburg, said the first time he met Jones was as a child attending vacation Bible school at First Baptist Church, where Jones’ parents attended.

“His mother was one of my vacation Bible school teachers,” Bryant said. “My first memory of Dan Jones, he was a missionary in South Korea. He came back and gave a slide show about the work he was doing in South Korea. I was impressed with him then as a 7- or 8-year-old, and continued to be very impressed with what he was doing for my alma mater.”

One of the negative things about the board’s decision, Bryant said, is that it has “created a lot uncertainty about Ole Miss’ future at a time when it was in unparalleled good shape. My hope is that the board will reconsider its decision and reinstate Dan Jones.

“If not, obviously, I hope they find an exceptional replacement. It will be tough to fill his shoes. I thought it would be tough to for Chancellor Jones to fill Chancellor Khayat’s shoes, but it looks just as tough for whoever replaces Dan Jones to fill his shoes.”

Jones, who was the university’s 16th chancellor, succeeded Khayat in 2009, moving into that position from dean of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

In 2009, he created controversy in the middle of the football season, when he ordered the Ole Miss band to shorten a traditional part of the song “From Dixie With Love,” which the band played every pregame, and the student section in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium would respond with “The South Shall Rise Again.”

In August, before the 2014 football season, Jones and other university officials announced Ole Miss would be removed from all school items except when it referred to the university’s athletic teams. He also created a vice chancellor for diversity seat to create standards of diversity within the university.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John