When students, faculty and staff returned to the USM campuses in Hattiesburg and on the Coast Monday, they finally knew who would be their next president. Over the weekend, the IHL Board chose Dr. Shelby Thames, the long time polymer science professor and administrator at USM.
His choice is certainly a controversial one, so Monday, we went to the Hattiesburg campus to see what the mood is now, and to find out what happens next. First we spoke with Dr. William Scarborough. He been a professor here for 38 years, and as president of the university chapter of the American Association of University Professors, he's been a vocal critic of Dr. Thames, but says there are no plans to challenge the IHL's decision.
"We don't plan on anything like that at all," says Scarborough, he added, "We fought the good fight and lost, so we go on with life here at USM."
On campus you will find the polymer science building is named after Shelby Thames. Dr. Scarborough calls Thames a very accomplished professor, but still has questions about his ability to lead a campus where morale is very low right now. Scarborough feels the next few months will be a critical time for the new president.
"He is going to have to convince about a third of the faculty that we were wrong, that our concerns were misplaced. If he can do that, we can move forward together."
As for the students, most seemed to be going about their daily routine, although an equal number we spoke with voiced either support for Dr. Thames, or said they felt the IHL Board completely ignored the faculty, staff and students.
Although it's clear he still has both very strong supporters and critics, for now, the campus seems content to adopt a wait and see attitude on the presidency of Shelby Thames. Dr. Thames officially takes over on May 1st. One of the other candidates for the presidency of USM, Dr. Ann Hart, was chosen Monday as the new president of the University of New Hampshire.