/Boyce, controversial pick for Ole Miss chancellor, addresses diversity, the Confederate monument, athletics and being an IHL pawn

Boyce, controversial pick for Ole Miss chancellor, addresses diversity, the Confederate monument, athletics and being an IHL pawn

Glenn Boyce of Nonprofit Mississippi News was appointed chancellor of University of Mississippi. He spoke with Mississippi Today approximately an hour after the announcement. Boyce’s hire was criticized partly because he wasn’t vetted by university stakeholders, and because the Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees cut their chancellor search process. Many Mississippians are now concerned about transparency, political power, and cronyism. This 30-minute interview with Boyce was conducted less than an hour after his official announcement as chancellor. It has been edited for clarity, length, and length. Mississippi Today: After the hiring process was completed, there is a feeling that you are too closely to the IHL board. You could become a pawn for board members who don’t like previous chancellors’ decisions. Are you a leader like that? Boyce: I’m not that kind of leader. I have never been this kind of leader. I am a strong leader who is independent-minded. This university won’t suffer from my relationships with the board. This will be a positive. That will be a positive. Keep in mind, for example, that there are many projects going on at our medical center. They have high-level buildings and research, and they also need all the other things. This building is essential for science, technology, engineering, and math. These are the items that I will need IHL approval for. They’ll trust me if I have those relationships. This will be a great benefit to the school. The social media response was quick after the announcement of your hiring. While there was some positivity, there was also a lot of negativity – not necessarily about you but the process. How was it for you to witness that response? There’s no question it’s difficult. However, it’s a challenge that I view as a challenge. I look forward to meeting the students and showing them how student-centered and cared for they are. I understand some of their concerns and can also understand their right to speak their mind. But, it is important to remember that your right to express yourself must be accompanied by civil respect for the processes and venues. There is clearly division within the university’s alumni, students and faculty. What would you describe the current situation at the University of Mississippi? We are in a period of unification right now. Please understand that unification can mean different things to different people on a campus of higher education. It is so complicated. There are so many constituents. Each constituent has their own agenda. So, right now, I believe we have a lot to do. Many people don’t realize that the work must be done constituent by constituent. This is how they want to engage the institution. But can we give them this? And can the institution’s culture and fabric enhance or diminish it? There’s a lot to be done to unify the institution at the end of each day. This is what many are worried about, especially the alumni base. You can trust me when I say this: It’s important to tell who you are today. We are an incredible diversity, with a great story. I believe we are building on that story each day. But I don’t think people are aware of that narrative or the story. While I don’t want to criticize those responsible, I do think there are some misconceptions. As chancellor, one of my goals is to improve the communication between constituents to a level that it has never seen before. This is how you unify people. This is what needs to be done. Diversity and inclusion was a major focus of the last three permanent chancellors. That is something I haven’t heard you mention yet. Is that something you will be focusing on as chancellor? Okay? Let me tell you, however, that my view may be different from others. We will work hard to recruit students from all races. Yes. No doubt. We will work hard to make sure that every student is treated with fairness and has access to the institution for as much as possible. Students should not just go to classes. You can access so much more here. It will help you grow exponentially faster, it will help you advance in your career. That’s why I want it for every student. Having said all that, I also think it’s about diversity in our faculty ranks and in our administrative ranks. It’s also about this. Diversity is a large part of my view. I asked myself the following question: Are we as diverse or appropriate as we should? What are we going do? It’s something I will work on, and doing right for the future is part of what I do. The number of minority students has dropped several years in succession. Is there a way to tackle this problem right away? I don’t yet have a plan. I will need to check out the university’s enrollment management team. However, I can tell you that we have a higher percentage of minority students graduating high school than any time in our history. This is a very important group to work with. We will pursue that. I believe that a group of students will increase high school graduation rates. This is a very important group. We must pursue them. In recent years, a lot of recruitment has been done for out-of-state students. Are you aiming to reach more Mississippi students? Or do you want to maintain a higher balance between out-of-state and in-state students? I was an out of-state student. We will continue to recruit out-of-state students in the same way that we have done, particularly with our alumni who live outside of the state. My focus and the place where I will be driving enrollment management is in state. We will be looking out for in-state students a lot harder than in the past. I will be visible all over the state to help them. It is vital for students. Faculty listening sessions in November revealed that faculty members wanted a leader who respected academic freedom. This direct expression occurred shortly after James Thomas, a sociology professor was granted tenure by the IHL board. Five IHL board members had voted against it. What are your views on academic freedom and whether Thomas should have been awarded tenure? I can’t really comment except to say that he was granted tenure. I don’t know what the process was. The university believed he was worthy of (tenure). They presented their case and he was granted it. Free speech is something I believe in strongly. Academic free speech is something I believe in even more. Let me give you an example. Let’s begin with the idea of research. Faculty members sometimes do research. This is something I strongly believe in. Research was not something I could do because of my busy schedule. Because I was too busy governing my career, I couldn’t do much scholarly work. It was something I valued and treasured. If you do not have good research that says anything negative about your institution, it is my belief that I will support it. Although the message might not be one I like to hear, it is something that I will consider and suggest we look at it because it seems solid. I believe civil discourse is essential to the way we communicate with one another and how we share our lives. It is easy to let emotions run wild and say and do things that are not right. However, I believe that you must drive your point home if your goal is to make your point. However, I do not believe you should drive your point home in a disrespectful or intimidating manner. This may sound old-fashioned, but I do realize it. Given America’s current state, and the fact that we seem to be moving toward the norm at a rapid pace, I don’t believe it’s a good idea to rush towards the norm. That is what draws me to pause. We have a creed because of that. Previous university administrators had voted to move the Confederate memorial from the campus center to the Confederate cemetery on-campus. The matter is now before the Department of Archives and History. If approved, the IHL board must vote on it. Are you going to intervene and stop the process before it gets to the IHL board? I don’t think I can step in to that process at the moment. This process has been initiated and I will let it run its course. However, I will say one thing about the monument: If all the powers at that point decide that the monument must be moved, so long as the monument is moved with the proper reverence and respect due to any monument anywhere in the country. It is the age of some of our monuments. According to others, if it has to be moved, I will not like it but can live with it. Sometimes, the way you do things can be more important than actually doing them. I am kind of waiting for what is needed to happen. It was contextualized twice. I believe in the contextualization process. It was fantastic. It was published in many publications all over the globe. All of this was a great job by the university. The contextualization report is not complete at this point, I think. So I’m going to dig into it and see where we stand with that, and if we can finish that report. Do you feel there is still work to do with the Civil War symbolism that exists on campus (building names, nicknames)? I will not be able answer that question until I have been around campus for a while and spoken with students, faculty, and leaders. To be clear, I will say that my focus will be laser-like in telling people who they are today and what our vision for the future is for their students’ future. It’s very simple. Things happen all over the country and it comes back to me. I tell you, “Wait, that’s not our students.” It’s not our faculty. It is not us.” So why do we even have to address this issue? This is a concern for me, because I want people know what university it is. Many would agree that the primary role of a chancellor should be fundraising. The university’s annual giving has fallen for three consecutive years. How do you approach fundraising, especially with the current divide between alumni? This is something I did as a president at the community college level. Back then, I led the largest campaign in school history. This has been a long-term project for me. Although there are fewer people involved, the basic attack is still the same. Fundraising can be a difficult task. It is important to prepare the table. It is important to know when to ask. People don’t realize there’s so much to fundraising. Talk to people to convince them that their money is making a difference. It must be clear to them how the money will make a difference. I love fundraising. It’s a pleasure to meet people and get out there. It does add a bit of weight, but it is very enjoyable to explain who we are and what we need. I enjoy finding out about prospective donors’ interests and trying to inspire them. The university does not have a permanent director of athletics. How do you feel about Ole Miss athletics and the future of Ole Miss? This is my background: I am a 14-year old kid and I am about to enter ninth grade. My mom and my guidance counselor make my schedule. I’m a first-generation college student. My parents didn’t know anything about college. I come from a very poor family. What happens is that I leave there and my schedule shows me a path to just joining the labor force. As I wait in the hall, my coach sees the schedule and says, “I’m going back to you.” This is because they saw the athletic abilities I had at that time and decided that athletics would be a major part of my life. Athletics would have been a major reason I went to college. I would never, ever be sitting here talking to you. This is just to give context: I’m more passionate than anyone about athletics. The SEC’s challenges are immense and complex, despite that. You must raise money to be competitive. You need an athletic director who can get out there and tell the story. They can also inspire others to give. We need an athletic director that is forward-thinking. People need to begin planning for the future of NCAA athletics. They don’t realize it, I think. It’s important that they keep up with what’s happening in California. It will make a huge difference in our ability to compete. We and our Mississippi State brethren. It’s huge. It’s important to have an A.D. that is able to think about all this and also evaluate the programs. Compliance is my number one priority. To compete, I need an A.D. that understands the complexities and how much it costs. I also need coaches who are committed to the success of athletes. Sincere win is what I love. It’s how I was built. One last thing. I want to get the students out of direct sunlight for the 11 o’clock and 2 o’clock football games.