ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

Southern Exposure Executive Summary

February 2020

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Board of Trustees of the Mississippi State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) governs the state’s eight public universities. The board is ultimately accountable to the people of Mississippi and bears the responsibility for effectively communicating the accomplishments, value, needs, and challenges of Mississippi’s public universities.

This state report, one of many produced by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), examines the performance of the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi State Institutions of Higher Learning and the schools under its authority. We will use four general metrics—Academic Strength, Intellectual Diversity, Cost & Effectiveness, and Governance—to assess the overall quality of higher education in the state of Mississippi, and we make recommendations for ways that the IHL can strengthen the institutions it governs.

Key findings and recommendations in this report are:

  • The rising cost of college is a problem nationwide. Although, currently, IHL schools have tuition costs below the national average, the IHL has important choices to make if it is to continue to provide an affordable education to its students.
  • Faculty salaries have stagnated, making it more difficult to retain top talent, while the salaries of administrators such as the chancellor or president have grown consistently.
  • Graduation rates among several IHL universities are unacceptably low.
  • Athletic expenditures at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and Mississippi State University have skyrocketed, outpacing many schools throughout the nation. Some of Mississippi’s smaller schools have tried to keep pace, passing on these costs to their students.
  • No school in Mississippi currently requires all its students to complete a course in American government or history. This deficit inevitably diminishes graduates’ ability to participate effectively in our democratic republic.
  • Although free speech policies at most Mississippi universities are appropriate, this is not the case at the state flagship. Ole Miss has a Bias Incident Response Team with highly disturbing implications for freedom of expression and the due process rights of students.
  • None of the IHL schools have yet adopted the Chicago Principles, a commitment to the importance of the unfettered and unobstructed pursuit of truth and knowledge as the defining value of a college or university. The Chicago Principles are widely seen as the gold standard for protecting free inquiry and free expression on college campuses, and Mississippi needs to join other eminent universities and university systems that have made this important public commitment.
  • The voting record of the IHL Board of Trustees shows little evidence of disagreement on the important business of the IHL, raising the possibility that there is insufficient transparency, debate, and analysis in decision making.