‘The Fabric is Torn in Oxford’: UM Officials Decried Racism Publicly, Coddled it Privately

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.

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Ashton Pittman August 2, 2020

‘The Ole Miss We Know’: Wealthy Alums Fight to Keep UM’s Past Alive

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.

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Ashton Pittman August 3, 2020

UM’s ‘Culture of Secrecy’: Dean Quit as Emails Disparaging to Gay Alum, Black Students Emerged

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.

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Ashton Pittman August 4, 2020

‘Appalling’: UM Provost Decries ‘Hurtful’ Emails About Black Women, Gay Alum

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.

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Ashton Pittman August 7, 2020

Ole Miss’ Coddle Culture: Ole Miss Will Stay ‘Ole Miss’ Without Radical Shift

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.

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Arielle Hudson August 9, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Decisions, Process, Motives Behind Ashton Pittman’s Series on UM Emails

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.

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Donna Ladd August 10, 2020

Perpetuating Patterns: It’s Time To Build A Better University of Mississippi

‘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.

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Joshua Mannery and Nicholas Crasta August 11, 2020

After UM Emails, Dean Plans ‘Anti-Racist’ Training, Donor Changes to ‘Remake Our School’

“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. 

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Ashton Pittman August 13, 2020

‘Ole Miss’ vs. ‘New Miss’: Black Students, Faculty on How to Reject Racism, Step Forward Together

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.

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Christian Middleton and Donna Ladd August 15, 2020

UM Closely Guards Climate Survey Providing Window Into Social Issues, Sexual Violence

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.

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Christian Middleton November 14, 2020

UM Probes Whistleblowers Who Exposed Racist Emails as Ex-Dean Keeps $18,000 Monthly Salary

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.

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Ashton Pittman November 20, 2020

‘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.

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Ashton Pittman December 8, 2020

‘Like He Was Disappeared’: UM Faculty Fear Retaliation After Ombudsman Put on Leave

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. 

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Ashton Pittman December 16, 2020

UM Appoints Acting Ombuds as Weary Faculty See Effort to ‘Stamp Out’ Anti-Racism Voices

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. 

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Ashton Pittman December 18, 2020

UM Retaliating Against Ombudsman for Protecting Visitors’ Privacy, Org Says

The University of Mississippi’s sidelining of its ombudsman amid an investigation into whistleblowers could have a “chilling effect” on the profession nationwide, the Seattle-based International Ombudsman Association is warning. 

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Ashton Pittman December 28, 2020

UM Accuses Ombudsman of ‘Raising False Alarms’ Over Whistleblower Investigation

The University of Mississippi is asking a Lafayette County chancery court to dismiss a lawsuit its ombudsman, Paul J. Caffera, filed in November seeking to bar school officials from obtaining information about visitors to his office amid an investigation into the ombudsman and a group of anti-racism whistleblowers at the school.

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Ashton Pittman January 5, 2021

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.

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Chuck Howard January 21, 2021

From Racist Emails 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. 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.

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Ashton Pittman January 31, 2021

UM Pursuing ‘Criminal Investigation’ Into Whistleblowers Who Exposed Racist Emails

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.

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Ashton Pittman February 9, 2021

Ombuds ‘Exonerated’ as UM Emails Whistleblower Hunt Fails to Identify Sources

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.

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Ashton Pittman March 8, 2021

Will Norton, Ex-Dean in ‘UM Emails’ Race Saga, Quietly Departs University

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.

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Ashton Pittman May 26, 2021

Listening to Kiese Laymon: ‘We Have to Uncover Those Secrets’

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.

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Donna Ladd June 14, 2021