Ole Miss people are passionate about Ole Miss. No matter if you are just a fan or a big donor alumni, if you feel connected to the school, you are emotionally invested.
Let’s be honest. Ole Miss does not win national championships very often in football and it does not provide one of the best degrees in the nation. It is hard damn work being a fan of Ole Miss. This school means something to us.
So, naturally, everyone has very strong opinions about how everything should be done in Oxford. From coaching to concessions to the Lyceum, everyone thinks they know what is best for the school, and they just might fight you over it.
The Dan Jones/IHL dust up is just the latest in a never-ending public discussion surrounding Ole Miss. When it comes down to it, people make decisions that affect the path and direction of the school. The leadership at Ole Miss is also subject to public and political influence just like anyone else would be.
The victories and missed opportunities through her long history can be attributed to the success or failure of its leaders.
There is no need to review all the historical markers along the way. Plenty of ink is spilled every year talking about 1962 reminding us of the shed blood on this campus.
I often have wondered why we have to see the face of James Meredith every time Ole Miss’ football team is put on TV. But the fact remains that the University of Mississippi was a battle ground for a positive civil rights change in this state and nation. And for better or for worse, we will never escape our place in history.
It is forever a part of this school and campus and if you don’t like it, you might as well move on and pick up a different color pom pom.
But because we can, i do think it is worth discussing the fantasy of “what if.”
What if, Ole Miss was never saddled with the familiar and sometimes controversial nickname and instead forged ahead with a more respectful UMiss?
What if this school never had to bear the weight of being THE University of the South and all the trappings that came with it.
What if instead this school was focused solely on the education of the people in this state and furthering understanding.
What if this school’s students never carried the confederate flag into a saturday afternoon battle on the football field or felt like the south needed to “rise again?”
What if instead of working to “become” a great American University, we embraced that goal 150 years ago?
Since i am a product of the Ole Miss Engineering school i think about Dr. A.P. Barnard. If you are not familiar with his contributions to the University, you should look it up.
In 1854, Dr. Barnard joined the faculty in Oxford as one of the top mathematical professor’s in the world at the time. A top graduate of Yale and a Massachusetts native, he began work at the University and soon became chancellor in 1856 until the outbreak of the Civil War.
In Dr. Barnard’s five years, he established world class laboratories with the best astronomical and scientific equipment available at the time.
The 2000 plate galvanic battery used to discover alkalies in the 19th century was housed in Oxford as well as the largest telescope in the world was being built at Ole Miss until the war halted its construction.
The students all went to battle and the school was razed.
The equipment as well as Dr. Barnard was shipped up north. The telescope became a key feature at the Dearborn Observatory in Chicago.
Dr. Barnard landed at Columbia University and for the next 25 years, he led Columbia to become the world leader it is today. He even helped establish a women’s college in New York because they could not attend Columbia at the time (Barnard College for Women).
The war was out of the control of politicians in Mississippi but the resistance that followed for the next 150 years to today has held our state University back. You can’t deny that.
Could we be talking about UMISS in the same league as Columbia or Yale today? Possibly, but that would have taken the halting of the war between the states.
Even though it is interesting and vitally important to go back and study our history we can not change any of it. As i always say, “It is what it is.”
We do however have some control of our future. Even though we have had many failures in this state over time, our greatest successes are still out there and available for us.
In order for those possibilities to become reality, you have to close the history book and open your mind. Think about a University not named Ole Miss, not chained to just Mississippi and the sins of our fathers.
What would that look like? Would it be better or just different?
I am not recommending changing the nickname of our beloved college and I am not even necessarily a fan of Dr. Jones. But I would be selling myself and our University short if i didn’t ask the question.