LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - The letter that USM President Dr. Rodney Bennett just sent to alumni should put to rest any questions about his commitment to the Gulf Park campus.
In the letter, Bennett writes, "USM is committed to serving the educational needs of the Mississippi Gulf Coast."
He said his vision for the future, "includes a robust USM presence on a thriving Gulf Coast."
Why did this even become an issue?
It dates back to January when Bennett decided to amend USM's organizational structure. Based on the changes he made, Dr. Frances Lucas was no longer the Coast's liaison at Southern Miss board meetings in Hattiesburg.
Rumors began to swirl. Coastal leaders who fought so hard for a four year campus in Long Beach started to question if USM and its president were still committed to the Gulf Park campus.
In July, some of those leaders sat down with Bennett for what were described as candid conversations about USM and its Gulf Coast connections. This is what Bennett said about the Coast on July 11.
"I believe in time, and in a short amount of time, people will embrace the direction that we're moving in and to know we're as committed to higher quality academic programs from the Coast as we have always been," said Bennett.
In his letter to Southern Miss alumni, Bennett writes that the willingness of the community, "to come together and talk through these issues…will build a solid foundation for the university and the coastal community...to become a much more economically progressive area."
You can find the full letter Bennett sent to USM alumni here: http://www.usm.edu/news/blog/message-president-regarding-coastal-operations