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Academics not forgotten


While the university has taken great strides to promote athletic fundraising over the past month, the school’s administrative staff doesn’t want the University of Mississippi community to forget about their efforts in UM2020. 

Earlier this month, the university, along with UMAA Foundation, announced a capital campaign called Forward Together that includes a new basketball arena adjacent to the current C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum and enclosing the North End Zone in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Announcing this new athletic financial campaign brought up a few questions: What happens to UM2020? Will both financial campaigns work hand in hand together?

For those new to campus this semester, UM2020 is the new vision for the future of Ole Miss that was announced in the spring semester. 

It is a plan to better Ole Miss and enhance the academic culture of the school by the year 2020.

In a letter sent out to the university faculty and staff on the day of the Forward Together campaigns announcement, Chancellor Dan Jones answered some of those questions.

“In the coming months, there will be both internal and external communications regarding development (fundraising) issues for the university,” Jones said in the letter. “UM2020, our current strategic plan, is being finalized and will provide key priorities for the next major capital campaign.” 

The letter went on to say that planning was still moving forward and that more information will follow as plans mature.

In regards to the UMAA fundraising campaign, Jones gave his stamp of approval.

“The university leadership supports this campaign and encourages this campaign,” Jones said.  

Jones also wanted to stress that since all athletic’s communication would come prior to any communication on the academic effort, that new efforts for the academic programs are indeed in the planning stages.

There are people who feel that with the UMAA effort coming first, that it will in fact help the cause of the academic fundraising.

“The record shows that if there are good athletic facilities it should improve the quality of the school,” said Will Norton, dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

Norton also said the school has reached a great accomplishment when it comes to the endowment of the school.

“There was no fundraising before (former chancellors) Gerald Turner and Robert Khayat were here,” he said. 

At one point, the school did not have an endowment. 

“It should be one of the greatest stories in higher education history,” Norton said.

Adam Brown, senior journalism major, said that he thinks the focus on fundraising for athletics could take the focus off of the academic side.

“I feel with the new athletic campaign being introduced, that the UM2020 program will become second in priority for the university,” Brown said. 

Freshman psychology major Barney Thompson does not share the same sentiment. 

“With the Forward Together campaign, I think that the school can benefit from the new arena and updated football stadium,” Thompson said. “It could only help the academic side of Ole Miss.”

Provost Morris Stocks said the UM2020 strategic plan will be presented to the university community this fall. 

“The plan identifies seven priorities of excellence that will guide the university through the next 10 years,” he said. 

Stocks said the capital campaign will be announced in order to help raise support for the “priorities.”

“The campaigns to support athletics and the priorities of excellence will progress simultaneously and will collectively form the university-wide capital development effort,” Stocks said. 

Forward Together will begin its process in the near future with UM2020, not having a starting date for any of their programs yet.