USM Campus Demands More Answers from Officials


Sean Smith

The USM Volleyball Team plays a recent match at the Wellness Center on the Hattiesburg campus. | Sean Smith, SM2 Photo Editor

National attention has been on Southern Miss for a few years now, all of it stemming from one thing: the Mississippi welfare scandal.  

It’s a broken record at this point. Brett Favre, Nancy New, John Davis and many others worked with the USM Athletic Foundation to build the Wellness Center on campus. Evidently, this led to $77 million dollars of state welfare funds being embezzled, multiple arrests and a nationwide scandal that involves our own campus.  

After months of countless requests for interviews, comments and statements, USM Communications finally released a statement on the infamous welfare scandal.  

“In 2017, with the approval of the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS), the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation signed a five-year agreement with the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) for its use of existing athletic facilities and future use of the then to-be-constructed Wellness Center, for proposed MCEC programming and services to benefit thousands of eligible individuals in south Mississippi.” The Office of University Communications said. “The University and the Athletic Foundation engaged in this agreement in good faith, following thorough due diligence by outside legal counsel, and after multiple assurances from officials at the highest levels of MDHS. Unfortunately, that due diligence did not and could not uncover the alleged fraud by the MDHS grant fiduciaries that was reported nearly two years after the Athletic Foundation signed the agreement with MCEC. Although MCEC shared projections of planned programming with the University, its actual utilization of the facilities did not align with those projections.” 

University officials revealed that they are “deeply troubled” by the scandal, and that they intend to work diligently with investigators.  

However, to many on campus, this is not enough. For weeks, USM’s student body has expressed their disgust and anger at the scandal; most of it directed towards Favre. Through bold Halloween costumes, petitions to remove him from the Eagle Walk and vigorous media slander, students at USM have confidently expressed their feelings towards the situation.  

USM’s recent statement was only the cherry on top for the student body.  

Many students saw the release of the statement as delayed, and lacking information needed to clarify more of the situation within the scandal. Many students pointed out how USM failed to address paying the money back. And above all, many students addressed their dissatisfaction with USM’s delayed release and that the university will “refrain from further statements”.  

Student Timaria Fondren had her own concerns with the statement and the scandal.  

“I understand wanting to make a place for the women’s volleyball team…but what they did goes against the Southern Miss values I always hear people preaching about. They could’ve gone about it in an honest way. They could’ve raised the money themselves. They could’ve done something else.” Fondren said.  

Fondren is one of many students who has expressed disappointment with USM for the scandal. Fondren expressed her anger with USM for the mishandling of the welfare funds and that has evidently left USM in a bad public eye.  

Many students are still requesting answers and still fervently condemning USM for their involvement in the scandal.  

The student body universally agrees—USM messed up.  

“…the sad thing about it is, part of me thinks the punishment they could receive won’t be nearly as severe as it should be.”