From Racist Messages to 'Witch Hunts': A UM Emails Timeline

Since the Mississippi Free Press published our initial three-part UM Emails exposé in August 2020 about communications that revealed how university officials have catered to and coddled wealthy donors and alums, oftentimes against the wishes of students and current faculty, the story has continually unfolded with more than a dozen entries.

From former journalism namesake Ed Meek’s fateful Facebook post, to revelations about Houston businessman Blake Tartt’s role in the fiasco and the search for a new chancellor, to the university’s reaction to the MFP series and the school’s effort to unmask whistleblowers, this timeline puts the events that have unfolded at the embattled university in context and allows readers to examine many of the emails that informed our original investigative reporting as well as a few previously unreported ones.

2009
Meek School Founded
Ed and Becky Meek give a $5.3 million founding gift to the University of Mississippi to establish the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.
2009
2013
The University of Mississippi School of Business Real Estate Advisory Board's web page lists Blake Tartt, a 1984 alumnus and real estate businessman, as board president.
2013
April 2, 2015
Dinner at Faulkner's
Meek School Dean Will Norton, outgoing Chancellor Dan Jones and real-estate businessman Blake Tartt meet for dinner with incoming NBC News Chairman Andy Lack at Rowan Oak, the old Oxford home of writer William Faulkner, to celebrate the media businessman's new position. The top middle photo, seen in the 2015-2016 issue of Meek School Magazine, shows Lack, Tartt and Norton (left-to-right).

The new NBC News chairman will launch non-profit news site Mississippi Today a year later, with Norton and Charles Overby, the chairman of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics (housed inside the journalism school), as members of its board of directors.
April 2, 2015
Oct. 26, 2015
State Flag Removed
UM joins other colleges and universities across the state in removing the Mississippi State Flag, which contains the Confederate emblem, from its flagpole after students vote to do so.
Oct. 26, 2015
Oct. 29, 2015
Chancellor Vitter
Then-IHL Commissioner Glenn Boyce announces that the board has chosen New Orleans native Jeffrey Vitter as UM’s new chancellor after the controversial March 2015 firing of former Chancellor Dan Jones.
Oct. 29, 2015
Dec. 16, 2015
UM Creates Ombuds Charter
UM implements the Charter Agreement for the Office of the Ombudsperson “to identify systemic concerns and provide feedback for the institution.” The new office allows university employees to raise issues and concerns confidentially. The Ombuds “shall not testify or provide records to be used in any … investigation” and shall “ensure confidentiality of the visitor’s identity and communications,” the charter says, adding that he or she “shall be protected from retaliation as a result of his/her role.”
Dec. 16, 2015
2016
UM’s marching band stops playing “From Dixie With Love,” an athletic fight song that mashes up “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a favorite tune of northern abolitionists, with “Dixie,” a song that served as the unofficial theme of the Confederacy. The university also introduces the current Landshark mascot.
2016
February 2017
Tartt Pitches Program
After Blake Tartt pitches University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media Dean Will Norton the idea of adding a real-estate marketing program to the school's Integrated Marketing Communications program with a vow to fund it, JNM puts out a job ad to hire a faculty member to teach classes on real estate promotion, branding, acquisitions and transactions.
February 2017
July 2017
IHL Hires Caffera as Ombuds
Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning hires Paul Caffera as the Ombuds for the University of Mississippi.
July 2017
Dec. 11, 2017
General Counsel Tyner Resigns
UM announces resignation of General Counsel Lee Tyner, appointing Perry Sansing as interim counsel.
Dec. 11, 2017
May 12, 2018
Norton's 'Klan Hood'
Dean Will Norton shocks faculty when he jokingly describes his gold academic hood as his "Klan hood" after Jennifer Sadler, a Black JNM assistant marketing professor, asks which institution it represents.
May 12, 2018
June 11, 2018
University Appoints Erica McKinley
University Appoints Erica McKinley The University of Mississippi announces the appointment of Erica McKinley as UM’s new general counsel.
June 11, 2018
Aug. 20, 2018
Lloyd Chip Wade, who previously taught finance in UM’s business school, begins teaching in IMC 591, a “Real Estate Promotion” class, after the journalism school hired him for the real estate program Tartt had pledged to fund if Norton started it.
Aug. 20, 2018
Aug. 29, 2018
'Keep History As It Is'
In an email exchange with Blake Tartt about efforts to rename the Russell Senate Building (named for a segregationist Dixiecrat) after the recently deceased Sen. John McCain, Norton criticizes "the big emphasis that if someone had politically incorrect attitudes, he should have his statue torn down, or his name taken off a building."

"The trend will begin to be, keep history as it is," Norton writes.
Aug. 29, 2018
2018-08-29-Blake-Tartt-email-Noel-Kiton-1
Aug. 29, 2018
Tartt's Gift to Wilkin
Tartt sends an email to Norton saying he left a gift for Provost Noel Wilkin, attaching a photo showing a Kiton tie box with a note attached on it, telling Wilkin he made him feel like he was “at the Ole Miss we know and adore.”

In an email to Norton, Tartt suggests IHL could make Wilkin chancellor. Norton writes back that U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Ford Dye, an IHL Board of Trustees member, “will be a help.”

“Changing of the LYCEUM is going to happen,” Tartt replies. “No way they (sic) the current group survives!”
Aug. 29, 2018
2018-08-29-Blake-Tartt-email-Noel-Kiton-1
Sept. 9, 2018
Meek Transfers HottyToddy.com to J-School
After weeks of negotiating with UM, Ed Meek transfers his website, HottyToddy.com, to a trust granting the Meek School exclusive rights to it. The site explains that it serves "as an immersion laboratory for students of Journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications." "I have lived a soap opera," Will Norton writes in an email as the dramatic negotiations wind down.
HT
Sept. 9, 2018
Sept. 8, 2018
In an email to Norton, Tartt complains about African American tennis superstar Serena Williams, whom he describes as looking "like an (ape)," using the ape emoji in place of the word.

Norton pushes back gently, but does not point out the racism of Tartt's statement as he continues to court the businessman for a gift for the school.
Sept. 8, 2018
Sept. 15, 2018
Tartt on The Square
Tartt attends the Ole Miss v. Alabama football game with Norton. Afterward, Norton drops Tartt off on The Square in Downtown Oxford, where Tartt stays until the early hours of Sept. 16 and takes photos of Black students, including women in skintight clothing.
Sept. 15, 2018
Sept. 17, 2018
'I Took This Picture'
Tartt emails Norton, saying "Oxford and Ole Miss have real problems when Black hookers are on Jackson avenue.” He includes photos of Black women and a video that shows the women and Black men “from other towns” who he describes as “competing” for the women’s “affection.”

“I took this picture,” Tartt writes in one of the emails to Norton.

Responding to one of the photos of the women from behind, Norton replies, “Big Problem!”

In another email, Tartt writes: “I happen to know what happens when a place is overtaken by the wrong elements. … For all the movement for total inclusion, social engineering does not work.”

In a follow up email, Norton writes: “Blake, I have been really disappointed for a long time with the way this culture is going.”
Sept. 17, 2018
Sept. 19, 2018
Meek's Post
Meek School namesake Ed Meek posts some of Tartt’s photos of Black women on the Square to Facebook in a post that also discusses incidents of violence on The Square, writing, "I think it important that our community see what the camera is seeing at 2 a.m. after a ballgame."

"A 3 percent decline in enrollment is nothing compared to what we will see if this continues...and real estate values will plummet as will tax revenue," he writes above the photos of the women. "We all share in the responsibility to protect the values we hold dear that have made Oxford and Ole Miss known nationally."
Sept. 19, 2018
'This Just Seems Racially Charged'
Alysia Steele, a Meek School assistant professor, emails Dean Norton and others in the school about Meek's Facebook post.

"As a professor of color, who works hard to break stereotypes and make all of my students feel welcome here, what is going on with this post from Ed Meek?," she writes. "I can go to the Square and show female students of all ethnicities and racial backgrounds who dress like this, so why is he singling out women of color? This is offensive and I'm trying to figure out if he's saying they're prostitutes or not. And our school is affiliated with him and this just seems racially charged. Not expecting a response in writing, but I gotta tell you, this is pretty upsetting."

Later that evening, UM Chancellor Jeffery Vitter condemns the post for "an unjustified racial overtone that is highly offensive."
Sept. 20, 2018
Meetings on Meek
UM administrators, including Dean Norton, meet in The Lyceum to discuss Meek where someone mentions Tartt's possible role as the source of the photos, though Norton does not mention it. Chancellor Vitter, Provost Noel Wilkin and Chief Legal Officer Erica McKinley are among those present.

In a separate journalism school faculty meeting about Meek’s post where Norton is also present, Rachel West, the marketing communications director and CEO of HottyToddy.com, says Meek's post "was premeditated" and that he had urged her to post the photos to HottyToddy.com on Sept. 19, but she refused.

Associate Professor Alysia Steele asks West who took the photos. "I believe Blake Tartt (did)," West says, adding that "Ed did not take the photos." Hotty Toddy Chief Editor Anna Grace Usery says she is "not sure if Blake took them," but that he "forwarded them to Ed." (The Mississippi Free Press later examined metadata to confirm that Tartt made the photos).

Usery says that, in Meek’s Sept. 19 emails urging Hotty Toddy to post the photos, Meek (falsely) described the women as “turning tricks” and wanted her to look at the police records to “see if by chance there had been any prostitution arrests.”

As in the Lyceum meeting, Norton remains silent about Tartt’s role in the photos.
Sept. 20, 2018
Norton Condemns Meek
In a video statement with journalism faculty standing behind him, Dean Will Norton condemns Meek’s post as “reprehensible” and says the faculty is considering a number of responses, including removing Meek's name from the journalism school. He does not mention Tartt's role in the photos.
Sept. 21, 2018
Faculty Asks Meek to Support Removing Name
Will Norton calls Ed Meek and asks him to publicly call for the university to remove his name. Later that evening, the faculty votes to publicly ask Meek to request his name's removal within three days.
Sept. 21, 2018
Sept. 22, 2018
Meek Apologizes, Asks for Removal
In a Facebook post, Meek publicly apologizes for his post and calls on the university to begin the process of removing his name from the School of Journalism and New Media.
Sept. 22, 2018
Sept. 25, 2018
Donors Cut Off Funds
Sidna Brower Mitchell, a 1963 alumna and donor, asks the school to stop asking her for donations and says she will no longer give to the school.

She is one of several donors who decide to cut off funds over the university's response to Meek. One pledges to "do everything ... I can to facilitate the removal of Vitter and to stem the flow of $ into the university."
Sept. 25, 2018
Oct. 6, 2018
Sociologist's Tweet
UM Sociology Professor James M. Thomas sends a tweet that stirs controversy: “Don’t just interrupt a senator’s meal, y’all. Put your whole damn fingers in their salads.”

He is reacting to the confirmation hearings for Brett M. Kavanaugh amid sexual assault accussations and the ongoing revelations about the Trump administration’s family separation policy and use of child prison camps on the border.
Oct. 6, 2018
Oct. 10, 2018
Microaggressions Report
Four sociology professors, including Dr. James M. Thomas, publish a report, "Microaggressions at the University of Mississippi," including students' descriptions of hundreds of racism, sexism, homopohobia, Islamopohobia and other discrimination-based incidents on campus.

Chancellor Vitter criticizes the report in an op-ed, claiming it misrepresents the university’s social climate.
Oct. 10, 2018
Petition to Rename Meek School for Ida B. Wells
Michelle Duster, the great-granddaughter of anti-lynching activist and investigative journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett, announces her support for a petition drafted by UM historians Jessica Wilkerson and Garrett Felber to rename the Meek School after her great-grandmother.

She tells The Daily Mississippian that it would be a "fitting honor" because Wells "was a native Mississippian who was a trailblazer in the field" who "used investigative journalism as a tool to exposure injustice, inequality and domestic terrorism in a way that challenged the power structure of our country."
Oct. 11, 2018
Reporter Obtains Tape of Meeting
Nonprofit news publication Mississippi Today reporter Adam Ganucheau, a Meek School graduate, emails Dean Will Norton, who is a member of Mississippi Today’s board of directors. Ganucheau tells him he is finishing up a story on “the Ed Meek situation.” Norton agrees to meet him in person to discuss the story.

Though Ganucheau does not mention a recording in the email, he possesses a secretly recorded tape of the Sept. 20, 2018, Meek School meeting where faculty discussed Blake Tartt's role in Ed Meek's Facebook post.
Oct. 11, 2018
Oct. 14, 2018
More Angry Donors
UM Foundation Stewardship and Records Assistant Abigail Robbins reports that a wealthy donor called to say “he will not be giving any more money to the university until (the) administration does something about Sociology Professor James Thomas.”
Oct. 14, 2018
Oct. 18, 2018
Mississippi Today Report
Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau reports on the tape of the Sept. 20, 2018, journalism school faculty meeting, writing in his report that Meek “did not take the photos of the women, but received them from an acquaintance in Oxford.” The report does not mention Blake Tartt by name. Ganucheau will later tell the MFP that he was not able to verify Tartt as the source.
Oct. 18, 2018
Oct. 19, 2018
'Treacherous Behavior'
Hotty Toddy editor Anna Grace Usery writes an email to Norton, saying that her trust in her colleagues has been “broken” after the journalism school faculty meeting recording leaked to Ganucheau.

Norton passes the message along to Provost Noel Wilkin and UM Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel Erica McKinley, assuring Usery that university officials will have a meeting to deal with the internal whistleblower issue. Norton calls the leak a “breach of confidentiality” and “treacherous behavior.”
Oct. 19, 2018
Oct. 22, 2018
Denson Hollis tells the Development office that Dr. Chan Henry, a wealthy donor, has decided to stop funding the Rexine Henry Scholarship endowment, citing Professor JT Thomas' social media posts and the decision to remove Meek's name.
Oct. 22, 2018
Nov. 9, 2018
Vitter Resigns
UM announces Chancellor Vitter's sudden resignation with little explanation following weeks of messages from angry donors and alums calling for his ousting.
Nov. 9, 2018
Dec. 1, 2018
'Please Go Be Chancellor'
Tartt emails Norton with a suggestion: “Please go be Chancellor!” Norton replies that he would “never be named,” saying that “being chancellor is plastic” and “not a position that educates.”
Dec. 1, 2018
Dec. 12, 2018
Ombudsman Requests Ads
UM Ombudsman Paul Caffera emails Scott Fiene, the UM journalism school’s assistant dean for curriculum and assessment, asking for a copy of a Dec. 12 hiring ad that a faculty member had anonymously raised concerns about.
Dec. 12, 2018
Dec. 27, 2018
School Removes Meek's Name
"This is the saddest day of my life," Ed Meek writes on Facebook as the journalism school removes his name from the building.

He insists that his "intended reference was only to the increasing violence in our community" but that it was "twisted into an unintended racial issue."

"I am not a racist," Meek writes. "I never imagined my life would end this way. No greater damage can be done to my soul than to know I have brought shame to our Ole Miss, friends and to my family."
Dec. 27, 2018
Dec. 17, 2018
'Do Not Provide Paul Any Requested Material'
Fiene tells Ombudsman Paul Caffera that the journalism faculty member who complained should take their concerns to "the appropriate area (HR, EORC, Search Chair, etc.)."

Caffera cites "alleged recent efforts of JNM Leadership to persuade a reporter to reveal the name/names of the source/sources" who provided the recording to Mississippi Today as an event that "might reasonably persuade an employee of JNM that JNM leadership could be inclined toward vindictiveness."

"Allegedly, during a Nov. 30, 2018 JNM School meeting, Dean Norton informed the JNM faculty of the School's attempts to uncover the identity/identities of Ganucheau's source/sources," Caffera writes.

UM General Counsel Erica McKinley (pictured) emails Fiene as well as EORC Director Gene W. Rowzee, Norton and Wilkin telling them her office will handle the request. "Please do not provide Paul any requested material, whether email, documents, or recordings. If Paul engages you again or if you receive any further requests from Paul, please direct him to the General Counsel's office," McKinley writes.
Dec. 17, 2018
Jan. 4, 2019
More Angry Donors
University Development Director of Communications Tina Hahn sends UM Vice Chancellor for Development Charlotte Parks a document containing remarks that former and potential future donors have made since September about the various controversies, with many defending Meek, criticizing Vitter and threatening to cut off funding.
Jan. 4, 2019
Feb. 13, 2019
'The Money Will Dry Up'
As Dean Will Norton continues to seek donations from Blake Tartt, the Houston real estate businessman sends Norton an email complaining about the school.

“Absolutely absurd and unfortunate how many lame out of state liberals, punk spoiled rotten millennials and racist faculty members have totally ruined what was the greatest place on EARTH! … The money will dry up. Those who tore the traditions apart will have no memories and realize how great the sound of DIXIE was when they can’t put food on the table.”
Feb. 13, 2019
March 28, 2019
Tartt: 'No Money From This Alumnus'
Tartt responds to a mass email from the UM Office of Annual Giving that asked him for a Giving Day donation for April 11.

"Are you crazy? Ole Miss no longer hold the values that made it so mighty and great!,” Tartt writes. “Hopefully you are able to get the faculty, socialist and folks fighting Christianity to give to your campaign. Until we see real change back to core Ole Miss values no money from this alumnus. I will urge ALL alumni to give nothing. Ole Miss has been destroyed."

Staff in the athletics and development department discuss Tartt's email, with Ole Miss Athletics Foundation Associate Director Matt Mossberg saying he has "spent a lot of time with Blake" and is "not surprised at his response."

"Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight based on the things he wants 'changed'. We will continue to interface with him the best we can," Mossberg writes.
March 28, 2019
April 5, 2019
Ida B. Wells Teach-In
The Arch Dalrymple III Department of History hosts the "Ida B. Wells Teach-In: A Monument to Justice," an event historian Garrett Felber organized to address issues of racism on campus. Ida B. Wells' great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster, speaks at the event.
April 5, 2019
May 16, 2019
Dye Chairs Search Committee
IHL announces that Trustee Ford Dye will chair the Board Search Committee for UM’s new chancellor. Glenn Boyce, who served as IHL commissioner from 2015-2018, will serve as a consultant for the campus search advisory committee.
May 16, 2019
May 26, 2019
School Name Reserved for 'Someone Who Will Contribute Multiple Millions'
Dean Will Norton writes UM Foundation Vice Chancellor for Development Charlotte Parks, saying he has heard that Mark Burson, a journalism professor and the son of the recently deceased 1940s UM graduate and public relations expert Howard Burson, has discussed renaming the former Meek School for his father.

"I do not know how this naming can go forward. The folk who talked to my wife said this would pour salt in Ed's wounds," Norton writes. "I think this will cause great turmoil in our faculty, the board of trustees and the town."

Parks agrees, saying that Provost Noel Wilkin said the school needs "to reserve the name for someone who will contribute multiple millions," instead of Burson, whom the school lauded as the "father of public relations" in a January statement on his death.

Parks suggests tabling the renaming discussion "for a while." Norton agrees.
May 26, 2019
June 7, 2019
IHL Appoints Tartt to Chancellor Search
The IHL Board of Trustees announces that it has selected 39 people for its Campus Search Advisory Committee to find a new chancellor, including Blake Tartt.
June 7, 2019
July 19, 2019
Charlotte Parks emails Blake Tartt, saying she "enjoyed" meeting him at the campus search advisory meeting for the new chancellor and "would love to get to know (him) better." Tartt responds saying he will be in town Aug. 6-9.
July 19, 2019
Sept. 11, 2019
Media Restrictions
Leslie Westbrook, a wealthy donor and adjunct assistant professor in the journalism school, writes Norton about the university's attempt to implement new media policies restricting the campus newspaper's access. Norton replies that UM Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Jim Zook is behind the move. "They do not want bad news getting out. They have made a lot of mistakes in administration, and they think that the controversy will stop if they shut down the stupid newspaper," Norton writes.
Sept. 11, 2019
Sept. 20, 2019
Meeks Redirecting $5.3 Million Endowment
The Oxford Eagle reports that Ed and Becky Meek have taken back their original $5.3 million endowment for the creation of the Meek School and redirected it to the Tupelo-based CREATE Foundation.
Sept. 20, 2019
Oct. 3, 2019
Meek Pre-empts IHL
At 6:59 p.m., Ed Meek posts on Facebook announcing that Boyce will be the next chancellor, though campus search committee members, who did not consider Boyce, are not informed of the pick until the next morning.
Oct. 3, 2019
Glenn Boyce
Oct. 4, 2019
Chancellor Glenn Boyce
IHL officially announces Glenn Boyce, the former IHL Board of Trustees leader, as its pick for chancellor. The controversial appointment sparks student protests on campus and dissent among faculty.
Oct. 4, 2019
Glenn Boyce
Oct. 5, 2019
'Grateful to Chip Morgan'
Local Oxford resident Steve Vassallo, who serves as the North Mississippi coordinator for Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign, praises the Boyce pick in an email to Norton.

"I have not been this excited since Porter Fortune was at the helm. I will be eternally grateful to Chip Morgan for making this happen," Vassallo writes to Norton. Chip Morgan is an IHL Board of Trustees board member whom former Gov. Phil Bryant appointed in 2015.

Norton replies that he is "worried that the new year will be rough."
Oct. 5, 2019
Oct. 16, 2019
Norton on Shepard Smith
With former Fox News host Shepard Smith set to speak to students at the journalism school later in the week, Dean Will Norton opines to an acquaintance about the fact that Smith had publicly come out as gay.

"I taught Shep Smith when he was married to a fine young woman. He has major challenges. I hope to get to know him better in coming months. I think he is very troubled,” Norton writes in an email.
Oct. 16, 2019
Oct. 18, 2019
Smith Visits JNM
Norton hosts Shepard Smith as he visits the journalism school to talk to students about his profession.
Oct. 18, 2019
Oct. 17, 2019
A 'Corrupt Situation'
Aimee Nezhukumatathil, a UM English professor who served on the campus search committee for a new chancellor, writes to the IHL board saying she has "never been placed in a more corrupt situation than the one I experienced as part of this committee."
Oct. 17, 2019
Nov. 5, 2019
Fundraisers Seek Tartt Meeting
Vice Chancellor for Development Charlotte Parks emails Tartt to ask if he is available for lunch on Nov. 5, but tells a colleague in another email that she is not sure the meeting will happen.
Nov. 5, 2019
UM Falls Short of Fundraising Goals
Charlotte Parks (pictured) reports to the Investment Committee that the university raised $102.8 million during the fiscal year, falling short of a $118.6-million goal.

She cites the "Ed Meek controversy," Professor James Thomas, the debate over a moving a Confederate monument on the campus, the controversy over Vitter's removal and the hunt for a new chancellor, a losing football season and basketball players kneeling to protest systemic racism as factors contributing to the losses.
Nov. 11, 2019
Tartt Floats Band Field Gift
Associate University Architect Chad Hunter asks Liberal Arts Associate Dean Holly Reynolds for an update on funding for band field renovations. Director of Development Ron Wilson tells Reynolds to say he is "working with a donor in Houston who is considering a $2.5M gift," referring to Tartt.
Nov. 11, 2019
Nov. 18, 2019
Ron Wilson writes Holly Reynolds saying he "just spoke with Blake Tartt, the Texas donor, who is working to secure funding for this project (the band field) from two sources in Texas, one of which will be from a foundation."

"He is coming to Oxford the first week of December, and he, Randy Dale and I will share lunch. I hope he has some encouraging word about this gift at that time. I have shared with him that we hope to have the new practice field ready for the 2020 band season,” Wilson writes.
Nov. 18, 2019
Nov. 21, 2019
Norton: 'Attempts to Be Nice' to Tartt Unfruitful
Tartt writes Norton, saying his home game attendance is "NOT GOOD" and that "something" is "really wrong with ALL managers at Ole Miss," citing a 13% decline in student enrollment and a 26% decline in game attendance. He adds that he hopes the "new leader" will make necessary changes.

"Blake, Thank you for your insights," Norton replies.

The journalism dean forwards Tartt's email to Provost Noel Wilkin and Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Keith Carter, complaining that Tartt "has not contributed to our school despite our attempts to be kind to him.”
Nov. 21, 2019
Nov. 25, 2019
'No Reconciliation Has Been Possible'
In an email to Will Norton and Charlotte Parks, Leslie Westbrook, who has millions pledged to the journalism school in estate assets, warns that “the Meek issue is far from over.”

“It has not died down. … Every time there is an opportunity for Ed to reiterate that you, Will and the faculty threw him under the bus … he has jumped on it with fervor. It is not over. We did not need Ed and Becky as enemies. They are our enemies,” Westbrook writes.

She then threatens to withhold a pledged $500,000 to the UM foundation for a planned consumer research center unless she believes the project comes to fruition.

Norton apologizes, saying he has attempted to reach out to Meek to smooth things over, but “no reconciliation (had) been possible” because the former donor had refused to speak with him and “he believes I orchestrated this against him.”
Nov. 25, 2019
Jan. 13, 2020
Holly Reynolds writes Ron Wilson asking for another update on band field renovation fundraising saying she never heard back about the planned December dinner with Tartt. Wilson says he is working to reschedule the meeting.
Jan. 13, 2020
Jan. 30, 2020
Top Fundraisers Back Monument Move
Mississippi Today reports on an April 2019 memo in which top fundraisers, including Athletic Director Keith Carter, University Foundation President Wendell Weakley and Executive Director of Alumni Affairs Kirk Purdom backed a plan to move the Confederate monument.
Jan. 30, 2020
Feb. 26, 2020
'Shield Faculty From Public Inquiries'
Charlie Mitchell, a journalism-school associate professor, criticizes a proposed media policy to curtail media access, writing that “the last thing a PUBLIC university worried about its image should do is shield faculty from public inquiries.”
Feb. 26, 2020
March 1, 2020
Media Policy
The Daily Mississippian breaks news on the draft of the media policy proposal that, if approved, would “allow faculty members to speak with members of the media without university approval about only research, scholarship, professional expertise or as private persons,” but require them “to seek advance approval” from the University Marketing and Communications department before speaking to journalists in other instances.
March 1, 2020
March 11, 2020
COVID-19 Pandemic Declared
Mississippi reports its first case of COVID-19 as the World Health Organization officially declares the novel coronavirus a pandemic.
March 11, 2020
March 13, 2020
Whistleblowers Make Request
An anonymous group called "Transparent Ole Miss" emails a public records request to Norton, seeking copies of his emails with Tartt and Meek and ones that mention Shepard Smith, Jim Zook, Adam Ganucheau and other topics. Norton forwards the request to UM General Counsel Erica McKinley, saying it “obviously is someone who knows the operation of our school.”

“Erica, would it do any good if I just resigned as dean? Would the person then relent? We have so much we are trying to do right now,” the journalism dean writes McKinley, who says she will handle the request.
March 13, 2020
March 29, 2020
Norton Emails Begin Circulating
The UM Office of General Counsel responds to Transparent Ole Miss' public-records request. Faculty members and other school officials begin receiving copies of Norton’s emails.

Provost Noel Wilkin receives a copy of Norton’s emails with Tartt and about Shepard Smith’s sexuality from then-UM Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement Katrina Caldwell. He forwards them to Norton.
March 29, 2020
March 30, 2020
Ombudsman Receives Emails
UM Ombudsman Paul Caffera writes to Provost Noel Wilkin, saying he has also received a trove of correspondences between Norton and Blake Tartt that happened “in August of 2018—about three months after Norton’s ‘Klan hood’ comments.”

Caffera says the trove includes emails “that (a) faculty member found disparaging to homosexuals in general, and to UM alumnus Shepard Smith in particular” and that the emails had “made their unsolicited way" to a faculty member who “has felt intimidated by Dean Norton in the past.”
March 30, 2020
April 1, 2020
Norton Says Tartt Warned Him
Norton emails Wilkin, saying he “sent a message to Shep.” He tells Wilkin that Tartt had contacted him earlier in the year claiming a “group … had his emails.”

“He had told me several months ago that there was going to be a campaign against me and that I should talk to the chancellor about when I was going to resign,” Norton writes. “He said he would set up the meeting for me. He checked with whatever sources that there were who were going to run a campaign against me, and he said they knew nothing about this. So I assume it is not a right-wing group, but a group with some to her [sic] persuasion.”
April 1, 2020
April 2, 2020
Norton: I 'Will Gladly Resign'
Leslie Westbrook emails Norton, saying she has received copies of the emails from an anonymous source and asking if he knows who is sending them to her. Norton tells her that he “will gladly resign if folk want me to do so.”

“I am very upset with the way I am getting portrayed after being portrayed all these years as a radical. I have been supportive of Shep throughout his career and all the students I have known. I do not know why someone would be doing this so publicly instead of coming to me and asking me to resign.”
April 2, 2020
April 23, 2020
Norton Resigns
During a 11 a.m. journalism faculty meeting on Zoom, Norton says he is meeting with Provost Noel Wilkin later that afternoon.

At 4:51 p.m., Wilkin sends an email to the school announcing that Norton has “decide(d) to return to the faculty.”

At 7:58 p.m. Debora Wenger, assistant journalism dean for innovation and external partnerships, emails faculty members a note from Norton in which he cited his age and the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic as motivating factors for his resignation.

“My strengths are in raising funds, recruiting, and finding support for projects in the school,” Norton writes. “Unfortunately, this is not an environment in which these strengths are effective, and I believe new leadership will bring skills and energy needed to make and implement future decisions.”
April 23, 2020
Whistleblowers Contact MFP
Members of Ole Miss Information, one of the anonymous whistleblowers groups, first begin sending copies of the UM emails that Transparent Ole Miss obtained through a public records request to members of the Mississippi Free Press.
April 27, 2020
Norton Says COVID-19 Forced Retirement
During a UM journalism faculty meeting over Zoom, Norton says he “probably should have retired from being dean four years ago” and that he “basically…(hasn’t) been a dean for four years” and has “been handing out work to other people” (even as he continued to receive a dean’s salary). He says COVID-19 has helped force him into retirement.

“I will be very concerned about being in a classroom,” he says. “I’m not sure that there will be much more than shelter-in-place for me the rest of my life.”

Moments later, he says he is excited to return to teaching and “would like to see what students are truly like in the classroom now compared to when I was teaching full time.”
April 27, 2020
May 8, 2020
Wilkin Appoints Wenger as Interim Dean
Provost Noel Wilkin announces that he is appointing Debora Wenger to serve as interim journalism dean.
May 8, 2020
May 11, 2020
Norton’s resignation officially takes effect.
May 11, 2020
Mid-July 2020
Will Norton resigns from the Mississippi Today board of directors.
Mid-July 2020
UM Confederate Cemetery Rendering
June 23, 2020
Confederate Cemetery Renovations
In an MFP report, Christian Middleton and Donna Ladd reveal that a committee to preserve a Confederate cemetery on campus has plans to move the 30-foot-tall Confederate monument from the center of campus to the cemetery for a “shrine”-like renovation.

The plan is spearheaded by cemetery committee co-chair John W. “Don” Barrett, a Lexington trial attorney and UM graduate with a deep interest in preserving American Civil War iconography and history. Barrett is a member of the University of Mississippi Foundation Board of Directors.
June 23, 2020
UM Confederate Cemetery Rendering
July 14, 2020
UM Moves Confederate Monument
The university removes the Confederate monument on campus from the prominent location on the center of campus where it has stood since 1906 to the old Confederate cemetery on campus.
July 14, 2020
July 17, 2020
Meek Speaks to MFP
Asked about the emails and photos, Ed Meek tells the MFP that he “would rather stay out of it.” Asked if he knows who made the photos of the women on The Square in September 2018, he says he “got several sets of photos from different people,” including Tartt, but does “not know that he is the one who took the photos.”

Meek says he has heard “rumors” that Tartt made the photos. He says he is unaware of the emails between Norton and Tartt in which Tartt says he made the photos.
July 17, 2020
Aug. 2, 2020
The UM Emails: Part I
The MFP publishes Part I entry in Senior Reporter Ashton Pittman's three-part exposé on the trove of emails that the whistleblowers first obtained through a public-records request, revealing for the first time that Tartt wrote in emails to Norton that he made the photos that later appeared in Meek's post and that, even as Norton and others publicly condemned Ed Meek, they continued pursuing a relationship with the Houston donor knowing that Tartt's role in taking the photos led to Meek's downfall.
Aug. 2, 2020
Aug. 3, 2020
The UM Emails: Part II
The second entry in the UM Emails exposé goes more in depth on the story behind Chancellor Vitter's removal, UM's history during Tartt's years as a student in the early 1980s and some wealthy donors' efforts to keep the Lost Cause alive on campus.
Aug. 3, 2020
Aug. 4, 2020
The UM Emails: Part III
The third entry in the UM Emails exposé details the effort to quiet public criticisms, the events that led to Norton's resignation and the whistleblowers' concerns about a "culture of secrecy" on campus.
Aug. 4, 2020
Aug. 7, 2020
Wilkin Responds
Provost Noel Wilkin responds to the UM email series in a YouTube video message, calling the Norton emails “appalling” and “hurtful.”
Aug. 7, 2020
Arielle Hudson at the UM Confederate Statue
Aug. 9, 2020
Arielle Hudson on 'Coddle Culture'
Arielle Hudson, UM's first Black woman Rhodes Scholar and an advisory board member of the Mississippi Free Press, criticizes the university's "coddle culture" for powerful donors and urges a "radical shift" in an MFP Voices piece.
Aug. 9, 2020
Arielle Hudson at the UM Confederate Statue
Aug. 10, 2020
MFP Editor's Note
MFP Editor Donna Ladd explains the decisions behind the UM emails investigation in an editorial and addresses defensive attacks by some journalism faculty members.
Aug. 10, 2020
University of Mississippi Associated Student Body President Joshua Mannery (left) and Black Student Union President Nicholas Crasta (right) point to “momentous strides both symbolically and substantially” at UM. But, they write, a lack of transparency on both problems and solutions underway hamper that progress and the experiences of marginalized students. Photo by Abby Johnston
Aug. 11, 2020
'Perpetuating Patterns'
"We want to love this campus just as much as everyone else," UM Associated Student Body President Joshua Mannery and Black Student Union President Nicholas Crasta write in an MFP Voices piece in response to the UM emails piece.
Aug. 11, 2020
University of Mississippi Associated Student Body President Joshua Mannery (left) and Black Student Union President Nicholas Crasta (right) point to “momentous strides both symbolically and substantially” at UM. But, they write, a lack of transparency on both problems and solutions underway hamper that progress and the experiences of marginalized students. Photo by Abby Johnston
Aug. 12, 2020
Wenger Promises New Approach
Debora Wenger, the interim journalism school dean, says in a statement that the school will craft a new approach to fundraising and implement "anti-racist" training in response to the UM Emails stories. She declines repeated interview requests with the MFP.
Aug. 12, 2020
Aug. 15, 2020
Black Students, Faculty Respond
Christian Middleton and Donna Ladd report on Black students and faculty's ideas on "how to reject racism" and "step forward together."
Aug. 15, 2020
Aug. 31, 2020
AEJMC Revokes Norton Award
The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication rescinds an award it had granted Norton in 2019, citing the MFP investigation and Norton’s “highly questionable” emails that do “not align with the AEJMC’s Code of Ethics" and the organization’s beliefs in “distributive justice in our relationships with peers, students, and other stakeholders.”
Aug. 31, 2020
Sept. 14, 2020
Auditor Investigates Sociology Professor
Mississippi State Auditor Shad White, a UM alumnus, sends a letter to Chancellor Glenn Boyce indicating that he plans to investigate sociology Professor James Thomas for participating in Scholar Strike, which the sociologist described in a Sept. 6 tweet as "a work stoppage" designed to "raise awareness of and prompt action against racism, policing, mass incarceration and other symptoms of racism's toll in America."
Sept. 14, 2020
Sept. 18, 2020
Auditor Issues Subpoena
State Auditor Shad White issues a subpoena to the University of Mississippi demanding Professor James Thomas' emails, his 2020 class schedule, rosters from his classes and class discussion boards.
Sept. 18, 2020
Sept. 21, 2020
Whistleblowers Email IHL, State Auditor
"Winston Smith," an Ole Miss Information whistleblower whose pseudonym is based on the protagonist in George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984," sends an email to IHL Commissioner Van Gillespie and also to the Office of the Mississippi State Auditor claiming that Provost Noel Wilkin “allowed Dr. Norton to retain his ‘additional salary’” that he received as a dean even after stepping down and that “this has resulted in Dr. Norton being paid more than twice the salary paid to any other 9-month full professor in journalism.”

Smith accuses Wilkin of “making an improper gift of state taxpayer money to former administrators.”

Smith also claims that administrators improperly hired some faculty members who did not meet the requisite qualifications.
Sept. 21, 2020
Sept. 25, 2020
EORC, Police Open Investigations
The UM Equal Opportunity/Regulatory Compliance office’s interim director, Gene Rowzee, meets with UM journalism school faculty who claim they are being “harassed” by the whistleblowers and who theorize that Ombudsman Paul Caffera could be affiliated with the group.

Rowzee opens an investigation into the whistleblowers and Caffera for allegedly creating a "hostile work environment ... on the basis of race and national origin," though no evidence supporting these allegations is publicly offered.

Campus police also begin a criminal investigation into the whistleblowers around this time after a number of unknown individuals on campus file a complaint.
Sept. 25, 2020
Oct. 13, 2020
EORC Asks Caffera for Interview
UM EORC Interim Director Gene W. Rowzee requests a meeting with Caffera to discuss allegations against him. Caffera wants to know what the allegations are, but Rowzee does not explain.
Oct. 13, 2020
Noel Wilkin 10-23-20 letter to journalism faculty
Oct. 23, 2020
Wilkin Letter to JNM
Provost Wilkin writes a letter to journalism school faculty, acknowledging the EORC investigation into “a hostile work environment allegation against the individuals responsible for the anonymous communications” and dismisses the whistleblowers’ accusations about administrative pay and hiring practices.

“While the EORC investigation takes place, I am exploring mechanisms to give faculty some relief from this barrage of anonymous allegations in the workplace,” Wilkin writes.
Oct. 23, 2020
Noel Wilkin 10-23-20 letter to journalism faculty
Oct. 23, 2020
Center Plans Meeting on ‘Troubling Experiences’
The Sarah Isom Center on campus announces that the ombudsman will attend a Zoom listening session “for faculty and staff to discuss their experiences with institutions on campus designed to remedy injustices and prevent harassment and abuse.”

“In recent weeks, we have heard about a number of troubling experiences that faculty and staff have had with colleagues, chairs, and upper administration. Even more worrying is that the processes set up to resolve such issues equitably, including EORC, the grievance process through HR, and the newly formed Task Force on the Gender and Racial Wage Gap, often don’t seem to have the safeguards and transparent processes necessary to ensure fair results,” the Center says in its announcement.
Oct. 23, 2020
Oct. 28, 2020
'This Antiracist Program Threatens Racist Donor Money'
Garrett Felber, a tenure-track history professor, tweets that Noell Wilson, the history department chair, rejected a $42,000 grant to support Study and Struggle, which he says is "a political education project on mass incarceration and immigrant detention." Felber claims the chair said the project was "political" and not "historical" and "could jeopardize department funding.

"The real issue is that @OleMissRebels prioritizes racist donors over all else. So it's not some mythic politics vs. history binary, but that this antiracist program threatens racist donor money,” he tweets.
Oct. 28, 2020
Nov. 11, 2020
Women Raise Concerns About EORC
More than two dozen women faculty members and other employees attend a listening session with the Sarah Isom Center in which Ombudsman Paul Caffera hears attendees raise concerns about the EORC and other investigative processes on campus.
Nov. 11, 2020
Nov. 13, 2020
Caffera EORC Meeting
Caffera’s attorney, Goodloe Lewis, meets with EORC Interim Director Rowzee on Zoom to discuss the allegations.
Nov. 13, 2020
Nov. 15, 2020
Climate Survey Report
Christian Middleton reports in the MFP on a university social climate survey that revealed widespread issues of discrimination and sexual violence on campus.
Nov. 15, 2020
Nov. 19, 2020
Ombudsman Files Lawsuit
Ombudsman Caffera files a lawsuit to block the EORC's effort to compel him to disclose information or to access his emails and private communications. He says he does not know the identities of the whistleblowers.
Nov. 19, 2020
Nov. 20, 2020
MFP Story on Whistleblower Hunt, Norton's Pay
MFP Senior Reporter Ashton Pittman breaks the story on the university-led effort to identify the whistleblowers who shed light on the Norton/Tartt emails. The story also reveals that Norton, now a faculty member, has retained pay bonuses he received as an administrator and continued to receive almost $20,000 a month in pay—despite teaching no classes in the summer or fall.
Nov. 20, 2020
Nov. 22, 2020
EORC Interviews Caffera Again
Rowzee’s Second Interview With Caffera Caffera meets with Rowzee a second time on Zoom as part of the EORC investigation.

Asked why Caffera was pegged as possibly being connected to the whistleblowers, Rowzee says that the accusers in the journalism department "just said that they think you’re somehow involved in some anonymous emails they have been receiving … and they said they believe you were involved in these emails (they) characterized as harassment."
Nov. 22, 2020
Nov. 23, 2020
AG Serves Suit
The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office serves the university with Caffera’s lawsuit days before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Nov. 23, 2020
Nov. 30, 2020
Boyce Cancels Meeting With Caffera
UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce cancels a planned face-to-face meeting with Caffera. Later, Boyce emails Caffera to tell him that the university is placing him on administrative leave starting on Dec. 1.
Nov. 30, 2020
Dec. 1, 2020
Boyce Puts Caffera on Administrative Leave
UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce places Caffera on administrative leave pending the EORC investigation, though he does not announce the decision publicly at the time.
Dec. 1, 2020
Auditor Demands Restitution
Mississippi Auditor Shad White demands $1,912.42 in restitution from UM sociology Professor James Thomas, claiming he violated a Mississippi law against teacher strikes. Thomas' lawyer, Rob McDuff, tells the MFP that he "did not violate any law" and "does not owe the State of Mississippi any money."
Dec. 8, 2020
MFP Story on Ombuds Lawsuit
MFP Senior Reporter Ashton Pittman breaks the story about the university’s efforts to compel Caffera to help uncover the whistleblowers’ identities. Faculty members tell the reporter they fear information they confided privately to the Office of Ombuds could be uncovered in the EORC investigation and that the administration may be using it as a pretext to eliminate the Office of Ombuds.
Dec. 8, 2020
Dec. 15, 2020
UM Terminates Felber
Christian Middleton breaks the news in MFP that UM has decided to end historian Garrett Felber's contract, an unusual move for a tenure-track faculty member that sparks an international outcry from academics.
Dec. 15, 2020
Dec. 18, 2020
Boyce Appoints Acting Ombudsman
Chancellor Glenn Boyce appoints law professor Will Berry as the acting interim ombudsman. Several faculty members tell the MFP that they do not feel comfortable using the Office of Ombuds’ services following the appointment.
Dec. 18, 2020
Dec. 22, 2020
Ombuds Association Speaks Out
The International Ombudsman warns that UM's sidelining of Caffera could have a "chilling effect" on the profession nationwide and says "it appears Mr. Caffera now faces retaliation" in violation of the 2015 UM charter that established the Office of Ombuds.
Dec. 22, 2020
Dec. 23, 2020
UM Files Motion to Dismiss
The University of Mississippi files a motion to dismiss Caffera's lawsuit on Dec. 23, accusing him of "raising false alarms" over the investigation into the UM Emails whistleblowers.
Dec. 23, 2020
Jan. 21, 2021
Ombuds Expert's Op-Ed
Ombuds expert Chuck Howard writes an op-ed for the MFP, citing the ongoing UM controversy to discuss how ombuds programs should and should not function.
Jan. 21, 2021
Jan. 25, 2021
Duster: No 'Warm Reception' from Norton
Michelle Duster, Ida B. Wells’ great-granddaughter, writes in The Daily Beast that she met with Norton in 2019 and "did not experience a warm reception."

"I left the meeting with the impression that there was more sympathy for the wealthy donor Ed Meek, who was viewed as having his character attacked, than the Black students whose presence he implied denigrated the quality of the school."

Duster praises Felber, writing that, like Wells who often visited prisoners and worked as a probation officer, "he has avocated fiercely to address and solve issues of criminal justice."
Jan. 25, 2021
Jan. 27, 2021
UM Announces ‘Pathways to Equity’
The university debuts “Pathways to Equity,” a five-year diversity plan that, Chancellor Glenn Boyce explains, will “require us to address individual, social, organizational and systemic factors that create and sustain inequities that prevent all members of our community from fully participating and thriving at the University of Mississippi.”
Jan. 27, 2021
Jan. 25, 2021
EORC Issues Report, Citing No Evidence
Rowzee issues a confidential report on the EORC investigation that only a small number of people on campus receive.

The EORC report says that investigators found “that the School of Journalism is a hostile work environment within EO/RC’s understanding” but that it “could not substantiate or disprove the identity of any employee or University-affiliated person engaged in the harassment.”

The five-paragraph report says the EORC investigators could find no evidence tying Ombudsman Paul Caffera to the whistleblowers.

“Because of the Ombuds’ application and interpretation of the current University Ombuds Charter, EO/RC was unable to either substantiate or disprove allegations involving the University Ombuds Office. At the earliest opportunity the University should review the establishment and structure of the University Ombuds Office and the University Ombuds Charter to either clarify and/or develop appropriate oversight and accountability safeguards.”

It offers no examples or evidence to back up its assertion that the pseudonymous whistleblowers “engaged in the harassment” of journalism school faculty members.
Jan. 25, 2021
Feb. 3, 2021
Caffera Responds to UM’s Motion to Dismiss
Ombudsman Caffera’s attorney rebuffs the university’s motion to dismiss. He also reveals in the filing that University of Mississippi Campus Police have launched a criminal investigation into the UM Emails whistleblowers.

“Caffera was also contacted by an investigator from the University Police Department (hereinafter ‘UPD’) named Kendall Brown looking to interview him, and his counsel was advised that the subject of the investigation was certain anonymous emails sent to persons in the Department of Journalism and New Media,” the filing says.
Feb. 3, 2021
Feb. 9, 2021
MFP Reports on 'Criminal Investigation'
University of Mississippi Police decline to answer questions about the whistleblower investigation, telling MFP that all questions about cases must go through the university’s public relations office, which does not respond to a request for a phone call by day’s end.

MFP reports on the campus police investigation for the first time, noting documents that show police may have began the criminal investigation in September. The nature of the “criminal” allegations is unknown.
Feb. 9, 2021
Feb. 12, 2021
Caffera Appeals EORC Report
Caffera’s lawyer, Goodloe T. Lewis, files an appeal of the EORC report’s findings on Caffera’s behalf with a letter to Provost Noel Wilkin. “It appears that Caffera has been targeted for retaliation—in violation of the Ombuds Office Charter Agreement—because he faithfully and appropriately performed the duties of the job,” Lewis writes. He notes that EORC was unable to tie Caffera to the whistleblowers despite conducting around 30 witness interviews.

The attorney notes that “there is no doubt that Mississippi Free Press articles published in August of 2020 … caused a stir amongst University of Mississippi faculty, former faculty, and the community in general.” Despite the uproar, though, the whistleblowers appear to have availed themselves of whistleblower protections under state law and university policies, Lewis told Wilkin.

“Although Caffera is not part of the whistleblowing groups, and has not sent anonymous or pseudonymous emails to anyone in or affiliated with JNM, it is important to note the impropriety of the University’s actions in attempting to unmask and or punish the whistleblowers. … The University appears to be attempting to punish people for banding together and speaking out on issues of public concern, consistent with both their First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment Rights,” Lewis writes.
Feb. 12, 2021
Feb. 26, 2021
Caffera Contests Termination
In a letter, Caffera contests Wilkin’s termination of the appeal process, saying the provost did not comply with university policy in his handling of the grievance.
Feb. 26, 2021
Feb. 26, 2021
General Counsel McKinley Resigns
UM General Counsel Erica McKinley leaves the university, taking a position as chief legal officer and general counsel for the Big Ten Conference. The administration once again appoints Perry Sansing as the interim counsel.
Feb. 26, 2021
Feb. 26, 2021
Boyce Informs Caffera of Altered Duties
Chancellor Boyce writes Caffera, saying he is reinstating him, but that William Berry will remain as acting Ombuds and that Caffera’s duties will be directed “toward specific functions of the Office of Ombuds to best serve the needs of the university,” likely excluding hearing concerns from faculty, staff and graduate students.
Feb. 26, 2021
March 1, 2021
Caffera Returns Under Altered Employment
Caffera’s administrative leave ends and he returns to work but under altered terms of employment.
March 1, 2021
March 2, 2021
Filing Calls Altered Job Duties ‘Retaliation’
Caffera’s attorney files a motion to amend his complaint, noting changes that have taken place since the ombudsman filed the lawsuit in November 2020. The report notes that “despite the EO/RC report exonerating Caffera on January 25, 2021, Caffera remained on administrative leave for unknown reasons.”

Lewis writes that, even after Caffera’s reinstatement, “the University’s retaliation against Caffera continued, and Caffera was not returned to his former position.”

“Caffera, who practices in compliance with the terms of the Charter Agreement and incorporated IOA standards, would have no duties in the day-to-day operation of the Office of Ombuds as pertaining to faculty, staff and graduate students needing the services of the office.”
March 2, 2021
March 8, 2021
Boyce: Ombuds Fully Reinstated
Chancellor Glenn Boyce announces in a campus-wide email that Ombudsman Paul Caffera “will resume his responsibilities as the University Ombuds, effectively immediately” and that the acting ombudsman, William Berry, will no longer work in the Office of Ombuds.

Unlike two December statements in which Boyce described the Office of Ombuds as "an independent, confidential office where faculty, staff and graduate students can seek assistance," the chancellor omits the word "confidential" in the new statement. This time, he describes it "as a neutral, independent and informal place to seek assistance voluntarily.”

“Confidentiality” remains a key subject of contention in the ongoing court case.
March 8, 2021
March 8, 2021
MFP Reports on Ombuds’ ‘Exoneration’
Using court documents, the Mississippi Free Press reports for the first time on the contents of the EORC report and what attorney Goodloe Lewis calls Ombudsman Caffera’s “exoneration.” The MFP also breaks the news about Caffera’s reinstatement.

In a statement, Caffera’s attorney, Goodloe Lewis, says his client “steadfastly adhered to his ethical obligations” by refusing “to disclose any confidential information” about faculty or staff members who had used his service.

“He did so despite being placed on administrative leave and further being threatened with adverse employment action (not to mention possible criminal action) for refusing to answer questions that sought to invade the confidentiality of the Office of Ombuds,” Lewis says.

The MFP also cites a source saying that the word “confidential” had appeared in an earlier draft of Boyce’s statement announcing Caffera’s return, but “was removed.”
March 8, 2021
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