When students returned to campus in August 2012, the atmosphere was entirely different at the University of Southern Mississippi than it is today. The sudden resignation of President Martha Saunders had left a gaping hole in the administration, and there was a buzz of excitement throughout the university about our new head football coach, Ellis Johnson. Construction had just begun on the new business building off Highway 49, and a man was convicted in the 2010 shooting of three Golden Eagle football players.
Just as students were getting back into the swing of things, Hurricane Isaac struck our ‘Land Mass’, providing us with a few days off school to contend with the light rain and not-so-heavy winds. On the day we were actually scheduled to return to class, the real storm struck campus, leaving social media havoc behind. We learned that when people have opinions about decisions made by university officials, they choose to blast them on the Facebook and Twitter pages of the school, and that no one shows up to a 9 a.m. class when tornado sirens are going off.
After the Hub City recovered from the storm, we were faced with what some would call an even bigger disaster: Ellis Johnson’s reign as head football coach at Southern Miss. The team went from being 2011 conference champions to a laughingstock in college football as the only 0-12 team in the nation. Thankfully, Donnie Tyndall and his basketball team redeemed the university’s image on the scene of college athletics, going as far as the third round in the NIT.
While people around the nation were still boycotting Chick-fil-A because of their supposed “anti-gay” sentiments, Southern Miss students were walking around a campus experiencing physical change in the form of new brick sidewalks and the demolition of old buildings. Work steadily progressed on one of the oldest buildings on campus, College Hall, and dorms that our parents lived in years ago were torn down to make way for Century Park South.
This year saw the re-election of President Barack Obama as the nation’s Commander in Chief, and Dr. Rodney Bennett from University of Georgia was named the tenth (and first black) president of our university. Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas stepped down from his interim presidential position, assuring us that he would never again occupy the office in the dome.
In February, just days after Bennett was named the new president of USM, a tornado devastated the Pine Belt, destroying hundreds of homes in the area and causing significant damage to the front of campus. Though most students were not on campus at the time of the storm, the extra day off school did not stop them from returning to their beloved university and doing their part to pitch in with the cleanup efforts. More than 900 students gathered on a cold, wet morning to remove debris from campus, and classes resumed as scheduled for everyone but music and art students. The loss of classroom space, however, provided music students the opportunity to share their talents with the rest of us as they were forced to practice outside, a habit we wished they had gotten into sooner.
After last year’s Eaglepalooza disaster with a no-show headliner, the Student Government Association restored the campus’ faith in them as they scored American Idol winner Phillip Phillips for this year’s event. A record-breaking crowd flocked downtown, and the event received great reviews from even the biggest SGA skeptics.
For those returning for the 2013-2014 school year, there’s once again excitement for a new leader on the football field, and stability has returned with the presidential spot no longer being an interim one. Yet again, this school year showed us the resilience of the students at Southern Miss, and from campus cleanup to the massive crowds at basketball games, we have many reasons to be proud of this institution. For those of us leaving the staff of The Student Printz, it’s bittersweet. We’re excited to be moving on to the next phase in our lives, but we’re sad to leave this place that has taught us so much. Keep up the good work, Southern Miss, and don’t forget you’ve already started on step one of achieving your goals by coming to school here.
In the words of Tyler Hill (AKA Herman Cain) Let it be born in the mind that the tragedy does not lie in not reaching your goals. The tragedy lies in not having any goals to reach for. For it is not a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity to die with no dreams.
Goodbye and good luck. Love y’all. Mean it.
Until next year….