The University of Southern Mississippi’s newest president held the first of many media roundtable discussions Tuesday morning in the President’s Conference room.
Dr. Rodney Bennett stepped into his new role on April 1 and has already made plans to involve students and the media in as many ways as possible, making it a goal to hold these roundtable meetings once each month.
At the meeting, Bennett announced a new employee initiative that will go into effect July 1. On that date, 194 staff members will receive a raise in pay to meet the new minimum salary set by the president at $21,000 per year.
The new minimum salary of $21,000 means every full-time employee or part-time permanent employee will make at least $21,000 per year, which equates to $10.10 per hour.
The total cost of this initiative will be about $563,000. Dr. Bennett recognized that this is only the beginning of increasing funds.
“I have not lost sight of the position many employees are in,” Bennett said. “You have not been forgotten. You’ve not been left out of our future going forward. But I need to focus on the lowest paid employees at this university first, and then I will continue to work towards a rising tide lifting everyone’s boat.”
Bennett also discussed his new book club called ‘Dr. B’s Book Club’, which already has a Facebook page and many students involved and talking.
“I hope it will encourage students to stay engaged and academically connected over the summer,” Bennett said. He said the purpose of the book club is to get students excited and eager to read over the summer.
At the end of the summer, Bennett said he will select a few lucky winners who participated in summer reading who will be able to have dinner with his family in the President’s Home, and will be able to watch a football game from the President’s Box in the fall.
“I’m here to do what’s best for USM,” Bennett said throughout the discussion.
Dr. Bennett made it clear that the well being of the university and its faculty, staff and students are his first priority.