On Feb. 27, Mississippi Today reporter Anna Wolfe broke the news that a welfare nonprofit, the Mississippi Community Education Center, gave $5 million to Southern Miss for the $7 million Wellness Center.
Although the center is supposed to be multipurpose, it’s infamously known for being a new and improved volleyball facility that’s getting in the way of 200 parking spots.
Finally, our anger toward its construction is justified. We know that the construction of a volleyball court can’t help those below the poverty line.
Volleyball players and other athletes do not deserve this criticism and hatred for this facility.This is not meant to disrespect any of the hardworking student-athletes, but that does not mean they should have millions of dollars donated to their poorly performing programs.
Although we agree that the nonprofit is at fault for misusing funds, Southern Miss is at fault for taking the money. Why are we accepting money to help a losing team? The volleyball team won two games out of 28 during the 2019 season.
The university sure does love to talk about how Southern Miss is one of only 37 accredited schools in this country for theatre, art and design, dance and music when it’s convenient to them, but that talk never turns into them funding those departments.
Instead of funneling money into losing sports teams, the university could have shown support for the art majors who have actually shown some form of success.
Graphic design students broke records just this past month at the Addy Awards with 60 awards. On top of hosting 27 schools at the Southeast Journalism Conference this year, the university’s journalism department won 20 awards at this year’s Best Newspaper Contest. Additionally, the university’s theatre and dance department won 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the hair and makeup design category at this year’s Southeastern Theatre Conference. The School of Music’s Southern Chorale also just returned from Jeju International Choir Festival & Symposium in South Korea, where they were the only university invited from the United States.
These successes would make one think that the university would be more than willing to give more funding to these departments rather than the athletes playing in empty arenas. Let’s not forget that the university had to campaign to get 30,000 fans at five games during the 2019-20 season because everyone leaves during halftime.
Student-athletes have already received so many university benefits. The $1.8 million, 18,000 square foot, second-floor renovation of the library is already dedicated to helping out student-athletes; when will the art students get an entire renovated floor of a library just to help them understand college algebra?
We would never get relocated to a bigger space. In just 2018, The Student Printz staff had to fight to keep our newsroom.
Maybe the problem might not be Southern Miss administrators or the Athletic Foundation. Perhaps the problem is that arts alum are not donating money for new facilities. If that’s the case, then maybe it’s worth considering why they aren’t.
So, what should the university do now? The university needs to give the money to organizations that have proven they help impoverished people like John Jones, who live in downtown Hattiesburg.
There’s plenty of organizations in Hattiesburg who serve underserved populations we’re sure would appreciate the money: Edward’s Street Fellowship Center, Shafer Center for Crisis Intervention, Lighthouse Rescue Mission, Extra Table, Fieldhouse for Homeless, AIDS Services Coalition, Habitat for Humanity and there are so many more.
Volleyball arenas do not help underserved people but these organizations do.
Mississippi Today’s article has been shared more than 400 times across social media, and most of the replies aren’t nice. We hope that students, faculty and staff will continue to speak out against the facility. If you have thoughts on this issue, please submit a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. All opinions, even those that disagree with us, are welcome.
The Student Printz Editorial Staff