Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones’ contract not renewed

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Days after returning to his office because he has been fighting cancer, University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones learned the state College Board decided against renewing his contract.

"I'm very sad," Jones told The Clarion-Ledger. "I don't like the decision they made. I've enjoyed the six years I've had to serve as chancellor."

Jones' contract concludes Sept. 14, and Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Borsig said the board has voted to direct him "to begin appropriate preparations to conduct a search process for the next Chancellor of the University of Mississippi in accordance with the board's policy."

Jones has had disagreements with the board a few years. "I wanted to serve another four years," he said. "I am not retiring."

The board wanted to appoint the vice chancellor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, rather than letting Jones appoint that person. "The policy in the statute calls for the chancellor to make the selection and the board to affirm," he said.

He said another point of contention was he felt the University of Mississippi deserved more money from the Institutions of Higher Learning because of its increased numbers of students while some universities were declining, he said.

There is no reason to mourn his departure, he said. "Our university is in a great position because of great growth in enrollment, a great increase number of applications and the quality of the freshmen students is improving."

In recent years, alumni and donors have given more than $100 million a year to the university, he said.
People shouldn't worry about him, he said. "This is not nearly as bad as battling cancer."

He has tried to encourage students and faculty to get involved in service, he said. "If people associate my name with service, it would make me very happy."

Some faculty and alumni, including Jim Barksdale, Ole Miss' biggest donor, expressed anger.

"In my opinion, they've made an unforgivable decision," said Barksdale, who has contributed $30 million to Ole Miss over the past 15 years. "The school has never done better."

Charles Overby, CEO of the Overby Center at Ole Miss, echoed those remarks. "It's outrageous that Dan Jones would get sacked," he said. "His leadership, coming on the heels of Robert Khayat's leadership, has propelled Ole Miss to heights it has never seen before."

Doug Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Sally McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College, said with record enrollment and giving to Ole Miss supporting Jones' reappointment, "I hope Gov. Phil Bryant asks the IHL to reconsider."

Bryant said in a statement that Jones "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 spokeswoman Nicole Webb said in a subsequent phone interview any notion that Bryant orchestrated the process was "ridiculous. The governor only has four appointees on the College Board, so that makes it impossible mathematically. We don't even know how those appointees voted."

A tally of the vote was unavailable Friday night. IHL spokeswoman Caron Blanton did not return multiple messages left on her cell phone.

Barksdale said the board brought two charges against Jones — that UMMC was not well run and that he was "not respectful for the IHL process, which means he spoke his heart."

The former CEO of Netscape said he has been running organizations for years. "You don't want a bunch of lambs following a shepherd all the time," he said.

Barksdale said UMMC is "in the best financial situation in years. They just signed a huge deal with the Mayo Clinic. The IHL has made a decision they will come to regret. … They got mad at Dan and came up with reasons to get rid of him."

The board's decision has influenced his thinking about giving to Ole Miss, he said.

The board ordered an audit of UMMC, which "came back with a clean bill of health," he said.

Dissatisfied, the board ordered a second audit, which also came back clean before ordering a third, he said. "How many times do you need to audit?"

The board renewed the contracts of other university chancellors.