UM EMAILS: INVESTIGATION AND SOLUTIONS
UM Emails, Part I: On Sept. 21, 2018, Oxford and University of Mississippi community members flanked Meek School of Journalism and New Media Dean Will Norton as he denounced a Facebook post by Ed Meek, the school’s top donor and namesake. The Mississippi Free Press examined emails that show that, at the time, Norton knew more than he publicly admitted about the circumstances surrounding the inflammatory post.
UM Emails Part II: In late 2018, a number of University of Mississippi officials struggled to strike a balance between empathizing with aggrieved wealthy white donors who clung to the Ole Miss of yore and responding to a UM faculty and student body that, overall, felt the school was not moving fast enough into the future.
UM Emails Part III: University of Mississippi Journalism Dean Will Norton resigned as email correspondences began to emerge with disparaging comments about gay alum Shepard Smith and about African American students.
Days after the Mississippi Free Press first reported on emails involving a University of Mississippi dean that included remarks disparaging to Black women students and a famous gay alum, UM Provost Noel Wilkin denounced the remarks in a YouTube video.
Arielle Hudson, UM’s first Black woman Rhodes Scholar, says an MFP investigation reveals just how much work on systemic racism the university has yet to do. So far, she writes, the response is inadequate.
Editor Donna Ladd takes readers behind the scenes into the reporting process, and decisions to protect sources, that went into Ashton Pittman’s three-part series revealing disturbing University of Mississippi emails and the identity of a donor whose photos of Black women led to the journalism school’s renaming.
‘We want to love this campus just as much as everyone else’: Two top Black student leaders say every stakeholder of the University of Mississippi needs training in diversity, equity and inclusion—and that the administration must start being publicly transparent about both problems and solutions underway.
“Anti-racist” training and a new approach to fundraising will be core parts of the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media’s plans to change its culture after a Mississippi Free Press investigation reported on disparaging remarks about Black women students and a famous gay alum in its former dean’s emails.
Black students and faculty at the University of Mississippi explain how administrators, donors and alumni can step boldly into an anti-racist future with transparency, publicly stated solutions and without depending on UM community members of color to do the heavy lifting. They love the university and want to see it reach its, and thus the state’s, full diverse, equitable and inclusive potential.
University of Mississippi administration has spent much of 2020 performing damage control in one way or another. The Mississippi Free Press obtained a copy of a recent UM climate study that it was closely guarding. Here’s what it says.
University of Mississippi officials have launched an investigation into a group of anonymous whistleblowers who earlier this year sounded the alarm about dozens of secret emails that showed how school officials privately coddled racist and sexist sentiments to woo wealthy donors.
‘Our Last Refuge’: UM Faculty ‘Terrified’ as Officials Target Ombuds in Bid to Unmask Whistleblowers
Members of the University of Mississippi faculty fear the school’s effort to root out whistleblowers who exposed issues of racism in the administration could also expose private information about employees and graduate students who have confided concerns to the university ombudsman.
During a period of what University of Mississippi faculty are calling a time of increasing paranoia, the university is set to terminate a celebrated professor of history—the outspoken anti-racism and decarceral scholar, Dr. Garrett Felber.
The University of Mississippi has placed its ombudsman, Paul J. Caffera, on administrative leave and is seeking a temporary replacement after he sued to stop the university from compelling him to share confidential information about faculty, staff and graduate students who have privately confided to his office about issues on campus.
Concerns grew among some faculty members at the University of Mississippi today after Chancellor Glenn Boyce announced he had appointed William W. Berry III, a longtime law professor in the UM school of law, as the university’s new acting ombudsman.
The University of Mississippi administration has broken its silence on the firing of Dr. Garrett Felber, a professor known for his anti-racism and prison decarceral work, suggesting that the national outcry within academia against the termination is “tied to the stereotypes of our institution’s past.”
A Matter of Trust: UM Controversy Shows How Ombuds Programs Should, Shouldn’t Function, Expert Argues
Executive Director of the International Ombudsman Association Chuck Howard writes that the University of Mississippi ombudsman controversy shows the danger of ignoring the core principles of effective ombudsmen: independence, informal, neutral and confidential.
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. 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.
University of Mississippi Campus Police are pursuing a criminal investigation into Ole Miss Information, a group of anonymous whistleblowers who, last year, provided the Mississippi Free Press with copies of emails that served as the basis for this publication’s “UM Emails” exposé.
University of Mississippi Ombudsman Paul Caffera is back at work months after he became ensnared in the administration’s effort to root out a group of whistleblowers who unearthed a collection of emails between university officials and wealthy donors who expressed racist views.
You tell us in no uncertain terms that you want real truth-to-power journalism in Mississippi fully focused on solutions over political gamesmanship. We hear you. We’re on it, Mississippi Free Press editor and co-founder Donna Ladd writes as both MFP and the pandemic turn a year old in the state.
‘Don’t Stir Up the Past’: Probing Mississippi’s Silences, Investigating Disparities, Honored Nationally
In last week’s episode of MFP Live, Mississippi Free Press publisher Kimberly Griffin and I had what many people sadly might see as a traitorous conversation with Mount Olive, Miss., native and author Ralph Eubanks. We’re supposed to be “patriotic,” we’re told, and that means just talk about the good and honorable parts of Mississippi’s and the nation’s history. We’re not supposed to “probe the silences,” as Ralph puts it in his wonderful new book, “A Place Like Mississippi: A Journey Through a Real and Imagined Literary Landscape.”
We love that our readers appreciate the groundbreaking work of our editorial team. You deserve meaningful, rich, and dare I say fun member experiences. Our supporters are a vital part of our team. That cup of coffee a reader gives up every week or the cost of one takeout lunch shores up MFP’s truth-telling journalism financially, but also mentally. When folks are willing to put skin in the game, it energizes us in ways that are hard to describe. Most days of reporting and growing nonprofit media in Mississippi are long and challenging.
There’s so much happening at the Mississippi Free Press I hardly know where to start. Our first donor event is Tuesday, March 26, at 6 p.m. I’ll sit down with editor Donna Ladd and reporter Ashton Pittman to talk about their nationally recognized University of Mississippi email series to go deeper into the conversation about how they started at the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism ceremony. (Watch them here at 40:00.) It’s a terrific opportunity to learn how deep investigative reporting works and ask questions about the tough decisions involved.
Wilbert H. Norton, the former University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media dean whose emails with a wealthy donor were a central part of this publication’s 2020 “UM Emails” exposé, is no longer an employee at UM.
Two overlapping topics in the hour-long show really struck me: Kiese Laymon calling out the ongoing racism and sexism in Mississippi, and, yes, the patriarchal traditions here that keep women out of power, the spotlight, well-paid positions and well-funded opportunity, and far from most political commentary and strategy, regardless of our experience and expertise.
Before the University of Mississippi terminated Dr. Garrett Felber, an anti-racist history professor, his public criticisms of its ties to the private-prison industry drew concern from administrators on campus who had monitored social-media activities, emails this publication obtained show.
Former University of Mississippi journalism school dean Will Norton is returning to his old haunts in a new role in the building where he once ruled. Norton stepped down last year after a group of whistleblowers obtained emails that revealed how he tolerated racist comments about Black women students from a wealthy potential donor, as detailed in this publication’s 2020 “UM Emails” exposé.