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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

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Residential Colleges for Oxford (Mississippi)

— It was my pleasure last month to speak at the University of Mississippi at the invitation of the university’s provost, Dr. Carolyn Staton. I met with many of the university’s vice-chancellors, deans, and department heads, and there is a great deal of enthusiasm for the residential college model on the Ole Miss campus.

The University of Mississippi provides a case study in how a residential college system might be established at a medium-sized public university with about 10,000 undergraduates. Ole Miss is fortunate in having a number of existing residence halls that are well configured for renovation as residential colleges, and new construction would not be needed to begin a collegiate system. The campus is well maintained, compact, and walkable, so the colleges would be attractive, convenient, and accessible to all students (as opposed to being remote from the campus core). There is a strong fraternity/sorority system, but this only serves a portion of the student body and so a large fraction of the campus is “under-served” (to use language I don’t really like) with respect to social and co-curricular opportunities. And the university has a distinguished literary and political history to draw upon for collegiate identity: as the life-long home of Nobel laureate William Faulkner, and the site of pivotal civil rights conflicts in the 1960s, it seems only natural to begin with a William Faulkner College and a James Meredith College.

And what could be more felicitous than to establish a system of colleges in the town of Oxford, Mississippi? (Perhaps only the initial American collegiate system itself, established in Cambridge, Massachusetts.) I thank my hosts at the University of Mississippi for the kind hospitality they showed me, and I wish their American Oxford great success as it travels along the collegiate way.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021