USM reacts to Saunders leaving
Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 01:05
When Martha Saunders announced her resignation as president of the University of Southern Mississippi Friday morning, it was met with varied reactions from students, faculty and alumni.
Tim Wells, a junior from Hurley, Miss., questioned the timing of her decision to step down.
“I think it is upsetting that Saunders will be leaving us, especially with how much this university has gone through this year,” Wells said. “This university has made great strides under her administration.”
A few of those strides Wells referred to are the same accomplishments Saunders listed in her press conference Friday. She named record enrollment, fundraising and incoming freshmen, and she pointed out that Southern Miss has been recruiting more academically talented students.
“We even turned the budget in the worst economic situation in a century,” Saunders said Friday. “And we did it together.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul agreed with Saunders, saying that he appreciates the good she has done for the university.
“I respect her decision tremendously,” Paul said. “The job is so incredibly stressful beyond comprehension, and she’s leaving Southern Miss better than she found it.”
Wells shared Paul’s optimism, but with a few reservations.
“This may be a down time for Southern Miss, but it won’t last long,” Wells said. “Her timing is bad, especially after losing an athletic director and two head coaches. She just got her contract renewed last year by IHL and now this. It just doesn’t add up to me.”
Students and faculty were not the only ones affected by Saunders’ abrupt announcement, however. Southern Miss alumni across the country found themselves asking questions about the situation.
“I think stunned and confused would be my most appropriate words for the situation,” said David Hosemann, a 1978 USM graduate from Vicksburg, Miss. “I’m interested in my university, and I want a place that’s stable.”
Hosemann, like many others, pointed out the good things Saunders has done for the school but said things don’t seem to add up.
“You hear all these nice things happening at Southern Miss, like record enrollment and then wonder why this happened,” Hosemann said. “As an alum it is just confusing, and we’re all wondering what is going on at the university as a whole.”
The discussion about the time line for naming an interim, and eventually a permanent president will begin at the Institutions of Higher Learning meeting May 7.
Paul said that no one has been named yet.
“I have not been contacted about that position, and I have full faith and confidence in the commissioner of IHL in getting us a great interim president,” Paul said. “It is often best in these circumstances that the interim be someone who is not a current part of the administration.”
Paul urged everyone to keep moving, and he noted that the university is still in good shape.
“I would encourage everybody to hold hands and keep moving,” Paul said. “This is not a time to panic, but to build on the great legacy that she (Saunders) is leaving us, and we can take it to the top.”