Jeff Vitter out as Ole Miss chancellor, will return to teaching

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Rogelio V. Solis, AP

Jeffrey S. Vitter, chancellor of the University of Mississippi

After January, Jeffrey S. Vitter will no longer serve as chancellor of the University of Mississippi and will return to the faculty, according to the state college board.

Shane Hooper, president of the board, known officially as the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, said Vitter, “made substantial contributions to the University of Mississippi during his three years as chancellor.”

“His leadership has moved the university forward in numerous ways and we are grateful for his service,” Hooper said in a news release.

The release touts several of Vitter’s accomplishments, including overseeing academic improvements, expanding the campus and expanded fundraising. An interim chancellor will be named soon, officials said.

Vitter’s future at the school has for months been an open question as speculation swirled that his contract would not be extended. He led a university where athletics and academics are often placed on equal footing by powerful donors and political allies.

On Jan. 1, 2016, his first day on the job, Vitter hoisted Ole Miss’s first Sugar Bowl trophy in half a century. The raucous fans that took over his hometown of New Orleans had more than a football game to celebrate: After consecutive years of enrollment growth, record-setting fundraising and increased academic prestige, they seemed assured that the good times would continue to roll.

Three years later, the university is losing students, minority enrollment is down, private donations are flagging, and the football program is gasping under stringent NCAA sanctions.

Vitter says he is proud of the work that happened during his tenure.

“Being the flagship university is not just a designation, it is a responsibility — to transform lives, communities, and the world. I am gratified that we have grown dramatically in impact, stature, and commitment in the past three years,” he said, in a release.

“We are stronger academically, enjoy more support in private giving and research funding, and engage more proactively with the world around us. In addition, we are a more diverse community with a more visible dedication to inclusion and civility.”