IHL board announces Glenn Boyce as UM chancellor via email after protests spoil press conference

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Thomas Wells, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Protesters forced police to cancel a press conference on the Ole Miss campus Friday afternoon.

UNIVERSITY — After protesters forced police to cancel a press conference on campus Friday afternoon, the board of trustees at the Institutions of Higher Learning announced via email that they had appointed Glenn Boyce, former IHL commissioner and president of Holmes Community College, chancellor of the University of Mississippi.

Rogelio V. Solis, AP

Former Commissioner of Higher Education Glenn Boyce

“Dr. Boyce has deep ties to the University of Mississippi and within our state,” Alfred Rankins, IHL commissioner, said in a release. “He has a passion for the university, its students, faculty and administration.”

The chancellor position at the University of Mississippi — one of the most prominent, sought-after, highest paid and powerful positions in state government — has been vacant since former Chancellor Jeff Vitter resigned in November. The 12-member IHL board began the search process earlier this year.

Boyce served this year as a paid consultant to the IHL board, talking over the past several weeks with potential candidates and powerful alumni about how the search process should be conducted. He did not formally apply for the job and was not vetted by university constituency groups.

The IHL board granted Boyce what’s known as a “back door” interview, meaning the board and other search consultants reached out to him privately and included him late in the search process. When he was hired, the IHL waived several steps in their stated search process.

Several media outlets first broke news of the hire on Thursday evening, sparking intense backlash on social media among Ole Miss students, faculty and alumni. The IHL announced a noon press conference on Friday to announce the hire.

When Rankins and IHL board search chairman Ford Dye walked into the noon event on Friday at the Inn at Ole Miss, dozens of protesters were positioned with signs near the podium. The protesters were holding signs that were critical of the IHL — “What the hell, IHL?” one sign read — and of Boyce. The protesters chanted as Dye took the mic and began speaking.

Ray Hawkins, chief of the University of Mississippi police department, then forcibly wrapped up a protester and dragged her out of the room, spurring cascading jeers from many in attendance and applause from others. Rankins and Dye then left the room.

A few minutes later, as the room still buzzed, Hawkins appeared at the podium and announced the press conference was cancelled due to “safety concerns.” The room was cleared out by police as protesters continued chanting.

About an hour later, after the tension had died down inside the event venue, the IHL emailed a press release to reporters to announce the hire. Boyce was scheduled to conduct a conference call with reporters on Friday afternoon.

Boyce, a New York state native and Madison resident, has more than 35 years of experience in education in Mississippi, ranging from a classroom teacher on the kindergarten to 12th grade level, to administration on the K-12, community college and university level.

He previously served as president of Holmes Community College in Goodman.

Boyce obtained undergraduate and doctorate degrees from the University of Mississippi and a masters from Mississippi College. His doctorate is in education leadership.