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Franklin Encourages Freshmen to do the Right Thing at Convocation

Phillip Waller

Thousands of freshmen packed Tad Smith Coliseum Thursday night for their first event as the Class of 2016 at Freshman Convocation. The freshmen filled an entire half of the coliseum all dressed in their best attire. Programs were given out by members of The Columns Society who also ushered students to their seats. The University of Mississippi Faculty Brass Quintet provided the music for the evening. The welcome was given by Dean of Students Thomas “Sparky” Reardon. He announced the processional for all of the schools at the university. They were called out by the years that they have been at the university starting with the oldest. Following the processional, Dr. Morris Stocks, provost, spoke for the academic convocation portion of the event. “This freshmen class is the brightest incoming class in the history of The University of Mississippi,” he said. “Freshman Convocation marks the beginning of a new journey. Each of you shares this one moment. You are among a unique group bound together as you begin together.” The charge to the class was then given by Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones. Jones then told the freshmen of the events on September 30, 1962 when James Meredith, the university’s first African-American student came to the campus. This year marks the 50th anniversary of that day when he was harassed by students and others in the community who did not agree with his admittance. “This year opportunities will be available to reflect on injustices of the past,” Jones said. He then introduced Tom Franklin, assistant professor of fiction writing and best-selling author. Franklin’s book, “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” was chosen as the 2012 Common Experience book. This book was given to every freshman at orientation. “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” is a story about two men – one African-American, Silas “32” Jones, and one Caucasian, Larry Ott – who were torn apart by circumstance and reunited by tragedy in a small Mississippi town. Franklin based the story on life experiences for Larry, while Silas was a reference to one of his best friends in high school named Wayne. Franklin went on to tell the freshmen class the struggles that Wayne and himself endured due to the fact that Wayne was African-American. They could not sit together at lunch due to segregation, and Wayne could not even afford to go to movies with him. Later in Franklin’s life he was looking forward to seeing Wayne at their 30th high school reunion since he had not seen him in a very long time. The only communication they had was one phone call shortly after graduation when Wayne told Franklin that he was going to join the Navy. “When I walked in, the first thing I wanted to see was Wayne,” Franklin said. He then found out that Wayne passed away shortly after they shared that phone call because there was a board of all of the classmates that were deceased. Franklin told the freshmen that he wishes he could go back and go to a movie with Wayne or even sit by him during lunch. “Class of 2016, it’s inevitable that by the time you graduate you will look back and have regrets. But I tell you that you will never look back and have regret doing what is right,” Franklin said. After Franklin spoke, Dr. Brandi Hephner LaBlanc, vice chancellor for student affairs informed the students that they would be receiving their class coins. The coins featured the James Meredith statue. Coins were passed out in silence to show respect for the importance of the coin. Associated Student Body President Kimberly Dandridge then led the freshmen in the university creed followed by the singing of the Alma Mater. Students then stayed after to meet Tom Franklin as well as the Chancellor and the Deans.