Professor Says It's Time For Reconciliation At USM

One of the leading critics of Shelby Thames says the new University of Southern Mississippi president must be able to work with faculty members who questioned his ability to lead the school.

"I think a lot depends on how he handles himself now that he's in office,'' said William Scarborough, history professor and president of the USM chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

The state College Board selected Thames Saturday in an 11-1 vote. He is to take office May 1, allowing interim president Aubrey Lucas to return to president emeritus.

After Thames was named a finalist on March 29, questions about his leadership style began to surface. Critics called him autocratic and abrasive.

Concerns grew although many of the approximately 600 faculty members don't know Thames personally, Scarborough said.

"I hope they'll give him a chance,'' he said. "I'm certainly going to give him my support. I hope the goals that he has set for the university can be realized.''

Although Thames has worked at USM since 1964, he last held an administrative position in 1986. Since then his work has been concentrated in polymer research.

"Thames learning curve won't be as steep as that an external candidate would have faced, but there are new programs and people he will have to learn about,'' Lucas said. "As important as getting to know the programs is the people.''

The AAUP chapter conducted a poll last Thursday, asking faculty to rank Thames and the three other candidates. Thames received 13 approval votes, 14 acceptable and 157 unacceptable on the Hattiesburg campus and one approval and 33 unacceptable votes on the Gulf Coast.

"He needs to mend some fences,'' Scarborough said.