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Khayat Says Naming UM Successor Key Part of his Final Years


University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat said he hopes to use the remaining three years of his contract to help find and orient a successor.

“Unlike the private world, universities typically don’t have a plan of succession, and that’s probably a very bad thing,” Khayat said Monday in a meeting with the editorial board of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

Khayat said that his 1995 succession of Gerald Turner went smoothly because he’d been at Ole Miss for nearly 40 years in every position from student-athlete to law professor.

“You probably ought to have a provost or executive vice president or vice chancellor who’s going to be chancellor and who knows the culture and who can hit the ground running,” said Khayat, 69.

Ole Miss Provost Carolyn Staton, a longtime law professor who has held the post since 1999, announced plans to retire at the end of this academic year.

“That’s going to be a major-league hit for us,” Khayat said.

Khayat said he has spoken with Commissioner of Higher Education Tom Meredith about his eventual retirement.

“I remind him that I’ll be 70 in April, and I’ve done this for 12 years,” Khayat said. “What I hope will happen is that the College Board will get with us on that issue, pronto, and let’s try to have a reasonable transition.”

When Khayat became chancellor, the state funded about 60 percent of the university’s operating costs, said Andy Mullins, the chancellor’s executive assistant.

“Now it’s about 30 percent,” Mullins said.

While the good news is the state is providing far less of the cost of a college education, the bad news is students and their parents have made up much of the difference and likely will continue to do so.

“I see tuition continuing to increase, because I don’t see state funding (increasing) for the instruction, for salaries, for operations,” Khayat told the newspaper’s board.

Private donations have funded buildings, programs and scholarships during Khayat’s tenure at Ole Miss, but most salaries and operations come out of public appropriations or tuition.

Even with a doubling of in-state, undergraduate tuition since 1995 from $1,273 per semester to $2,466 Khayat insists Ole Miss is a bargain.

“Public figures love to say, ‘Don’t raise tuition,’ but the truth is, tuition in Mississippi is very low,” he said.

In that time Ole Miss has added, among other features, a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, Croft Institute for International Studies, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Trent Lott Leadership Institute, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and the new Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, according to

“Ole Miss is as fine a public university as there is,” Khayat said. “We can compete with anybody in areas where we’re strong.”

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