Thames: USM Faces Challenging Year

A possible takeover of the Gulfport VA by USM won't happen anytime soon, says the university's president. But Dr. Shelby Thames says if given the opportunity, USM could use the Gulfport site to enhance research funding in areas like nursing, nutrition and psychology.

"Those are all programs... that could be tied into a clinical environment, clinical setting. We already have those programs on campus and we would extend them to the VA center, hopefully, or to any other center that might be of a clinical environment."

Thames says the college board of trustees have told him to keep tabs on negotiations involving the VA.

The college board also wants USM and the state's other universities to submit proposals to teach gaming courses that might convince the legislature to allow such classes. New Orleans' Tulane University offers gaming courses at its Biloxi campus.

"This is our state, this is our responsibility to provide education to our people and we'd like very much to be able to do that."

Thames wants to keep his professors on the job too. He says faculty members are paid at least $6,000 below the southeastern average of $59,000 dollars. Thames says over the last four years faculty have received only a two percent raise.

"We're just hoping beyond hope that the legislature will find the means of giving us some money to help with faculty raises. I know that everybody's talking about how bleak it is and I know that money's tight, but I'm just eternally optimistic that they will see the need and respond and find some money for us."