By Chris Kieffer
University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones did not have his contact renewed by the state college board, Jones confirmed to the Daily Journal on Friday.
He will continue to work until his current agreement expires on Sept. 14.
A letter from Jones to the university community will be placed on the UM website, olemiss.edu, later Friday evening, he said.
Jones, 66, has led the 23,000-student university since 2009, after previously heading the university’s medical campus in Jackson. He recently returned to Oxford, after having spent the past four months in the Jackson area while undergoing treatment for lymphoma.
Jones said he was disappointed when the decision was made by the board on Thursday.
“We’ve had some disagreements for a while…but I thought we worked through it,” said Jones, the university’s 16th chancellor. “This College Board is clearly tasked with the authority of selecting leadership for the eight public universities. Their decision is a disappointing one to me, but it is their authority to make the decision.”
Those disagreements were related to the methodology for allocating funds to the eight state public universities, the management of the university medical center and the process to appoint a new head to the medical center, Jones said.
A statement sent late Friday from the State Institutions of Higher Learning confirmed the non-renewal, but was vague about the reasons.
“The contract of Dr. Dan Jones, Chancellor of the University of Mississippi, concludes on Sept. 14, 2015 and the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning has not extended the term of the contract,” Jim Borsig, commissioner of higher education said in the statement. “The Board voted today to direct the Commissioner to begin appropriate preparations to conduct a search process for the next Chancellor of the University of Mississippi in accordance with teh Board’s policy.”
College Board President Aubrey Patterson of Tupelo said Borsig’s statement spoke for the board, and he declined further comment.
The state recently switched to a performance-based formula for funding universities, rather than one based on enrollment. That came during a time that UM has undergone large growth.
“The per student funding was out of balance with other universities,” Jones said. “I continued to raise this as an issue to be addressed.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Phil Bryant said the governor learned of the decision late Friday afternoon.
“Dan Jones has served Ole Miss honorably as both chancellor of the university and as vice chancellor of health affairs for the University of Mississippi Medical Center. I wish him the best in his future personal and professional endeavors.”
Bryant has four appointments on the 12-member board. Asked whether the governor had asked the board not to renewed the contract, Spokesperson Nicole Webb said, “Absolutely not.”
Leaders in Oxford and Lafayette County, meanwhile, said they were disappointed when they learned the news.
“I’m utterly disappointed to hear that Chancellor Jones’ contract was not renewed,” said Oxford Mayor George “Pat” Patterson. “It is my observation from 30 years of public service that not only was Dan Jones an incredible leader as chancellor but that he has incredible moral character.
“The University and Oxford community will be much less without him.”
Lafayette County Board of Supervisors President Jeff Busby said he had met with Jones numerous times during his three years on the board. He noted the university’s willingness to help the county move a polling place into a university-owned building.
“He always was willing to help whenever he could,” Busby said. “…He was always more than generous. He kept us in the loop with all the major projects going on around campus. I think it will be a tremendous loss for the community. I’mmjust shocked. I thought he was a good leader.”
Tupelo’s Trentice Imbler, president of the UM Alumni Association, also used the word “shocked.”
“He has been very supportive of the alumni association,” Imbler said. “The university has benefited tremendously from his direction and guidance.”
Jones never shied from difficult decisions, Imbler said, adding she believes he made the right calls in those tight spots.
“He tackles situations head on, and we have been fortunate and blessed to have him as our leader,” Imbler said.
University of Mississippi senior Connor Hennessey of Shreveport said Jones transformed the university’s image.
“Chancellor Jones was a great asset to the Ole Miss family,” Hennessey said. “Through his tenure, people began to look at Ole Miss differently. People should also remember he is responsible for the hiring of Ross Bjork and Hugh Freeze, both of which have been huge in putting not only the athletics program at Ole Miss on the map, but the state as a whole.
“It’s sort of a shock to everyone I’ve talked to because there’s been nothing but positive things about Chancellor Jones and the job he was doing. Things are looking up for the university, and it’s unfortunate we have to see him go.”
Said Bjork, the athletic director: “I would describe him as the best situational leader I’ve been around in my career.
“I believe if you look at all the metrics that are on our campus, from applications, to admissions, to fundraising, to campus construction and then to athletic success, you could say that we’re one of the hottest universities in the entire country. It all starts with the top. There is no doubt that Dan has led us to new heights and done one of the best jobs in the country.
John Davis Jeff Eubanks and Errol Castens of the Oxford Citizen and Michaela Morris of the Daily Journal contributed to this story.
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