Editorial: Dr. Joe Paul becomes 11th Southern Miss President, but why?


Dr. Joe Paul at the official announcement of his presidency on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2022. | Loren Jones, Printz Executive Editor

Excitement spread on campus as the University of Southern Mississippi named Dr. Joe Paul as the 11th president on Oct. 24. Students, faculty and administration expressed their joy at this announcement, coming together to celebrate and open a widely spread conversation about how this happened.  

The Board of Trustees and the Faculty Senate started their search for a president earlier in the 2022 fall semester. Dr. Joe Paul was elected as interim President of the University in July. In most situations, interim presidents are only elected to serve for a short period of time. Yet in this surprising turn of events, USM’s interim president was elected as the long-term president. It may have come as a surprise, but a welcome one in the eyes of the campus. 

Many, however, are wondering why the decision was made so quickly after USM’s Listening Sessions during the search for the president. Instead, USM stuck with what it already had.  

Now, no one is saying that Paul is not experienced or not worthy of this position. He was an alumnus, a former administrator in student affairs, and a faculty member for USM’s School of Education and Psychology. And Paul is obviously a beloved figure on campus.  

He can be seen frequently in the Thad Cochran Center, at football games, tailgates, speaking at on-campus events for different organizations, and simply sharing his love of Southern Miss with the people in the community. There was an outcry of love and happiness at his selection. He was selected for a reason.  

But many still wonder why the decision was made so quickly. Why host a listening session if they were going to keep Paul as the president?  

“During the Listening Sessions held on the campuses in Hattiesburg and Long Beach, the campus community spoke clearly and passionately about why Dr. Joe Paul is unquestionably the right person to fill the role on a permanent basis,” Co-chair of the Board Search Committee Trustee Gee Ogletree said. “I have known and witnessed Dr. Paul’s exceptional contributions to the University for over four decades. I recognize Dr. Paul’s energy, relationships, affection, and years of service to Southern Miss have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the right person to guide the University into its next chapter of leadership and excellence in teaching, service, and research in the state and nation.” 

The question was asked multiple times: Was anyone unhappy with Paul’s election? 

There was nothing but support for the president. No one (publicly) said they were unhappy. Everyone celebrated at the official announcement before last Thursday’s televised football game, and the campus has made it quickly obvious that Dr. Joe Paul is loved at USM. There’s a reason he became president, and the campus is grateful for it.  

One thing is clear—Dr. Joe Paul bleeds black and gold. The man is a Golden Eagle through and through, and we officially welcome him to Southern Miss as our President.