Student organizations at the University of Southern Mississippi threw their support behind President Dr. Horace Fleming on Monday. Fleming has come under fire over his handling of budget cuts and the move to make U.S.M. Gulf Coast a four year college. Some Foreign Language students told WLOX that budgets cuts mean the department won't be able to replace several retiring professors and some programs are being eliminated. They all agree that some cuts are necessary, but they differ on whether U.S.M. President Horace Fleming has been fair when divvying up funds around campus.
Francisco Melara, a senior said "We feel like the money has been invested in parts of the university that should not be being invested on, and where the money is needed it's not getting there."
" I'm sorry for what Dr. Fleming is going through now but this wasn't only his decision," said graduate student Yohanna Jimenez. " I think that some departments are more important than others and that some departments have to go."
Several student groups pledged their support of the Fleming president, saying talk about Fleming's future has focused too much on his shortcomings rather than his accomplishments. At Mondays news conference, they said they wanted the student voice to be heard.
Student Government President Angela Patterson said "There are more students on this campus than faculty and staff combined and there are many students that feel very strongly about his renewal. So we felt that it was needed for the Student Government Association to go forward and make a stand on behalf of the students."
Some students say a change in the presidency will do little to solve the university's problems.
"Even if we do bring another president in he's still has to deal with the different issues that are going on now. It's no way to get around that," said Amond Younger.
In his 21 years as USM president, Aubrey Lucas says he never faced anything comparable to what current president Horace Fleming is facing now. Lucas says he doesn't like the fact that Fleming's contract is being debated publicly. He says Fleming future is something that only the College Board and Fleming can decide..
"The thing that our board faces and Dr. Fleming as well, is they have to determine if they can work together. Do they have confidence in each other? Is there trust? Is there comfort? Those things they've got to really come to grips with. Not just the board. but the president and the board, and I think that Dr. Fleming is in a time of discernment here," said Lucas.
Some university groups including the Student Government Association have said the school's100 million dollar fundraising campaign is heading will be hurt if Fleming leaves Lucas say he agrees though he's not sure how much of an impact the change of leadership would have.