2014 proves eventful for USM

As we approach the end of another spring semester at The University of Southern Mississippi and prepare to make our farewell to 2014, let us take a glance at the rear-view mirror at what the year brought to our school, our community and our state.

With the year starting in an avalanche of reactions of all kinds to record amounts of snow (or whatever it was) covering our beloved campus, the release of a rather chilly Disney feature set the tone, for the better or the worse, for a whole year of nearly unhealthy enthusiasm and excitement around a kid’s movie.

But in between “Frozen” references, people found time to make this year a memorable one, starting with the arrival of fresh buildings changing the face of the USM campus for the future generations of students to enjoy.

If 2013 was for rebuilding after the devastating tornado, 2014 was for building more. And the year passed to the rhythms of Asbury Hall, Scianna Hall and several residence halls slowly rising.

Because more buildings do not mean more students, the enrollment drop caused USM to focus on making budget cuts. The discussions, involving faculty senates and student government, have been exhaustive but productive. If major changes might be felt as many necessary professor positions are still being emptied, there is optimism for higher enrollment and retention rates in the future.

As always, a solid student body does need to include some bad apples. Whether it was for being charged with aggravated assault, stealing and eventually causing the death of flamingos, or even making death threats on the social media app Yik Yak, students have had their moments on the hot seat. If these misbehaving students are bad publicity for the school, their stories exploded on social media and caused many to speak out and have discussions on basic implications of living together.

Students also used the campus to voice their opinions, and run various initiatives, from the yearly election season that seems to drive everyone crazy of either excitement or frustration, to the discussions of tobacco on campus.

And of course there were the infamous clashes with religious outsiders who came to preach their pious beliefs on abortions, met with a strong response in October.

After the year opened with a Freedom Summer celebration in the streets of Hattiesburg, the citizens and students were left to follow one of this year’s most vibrant national controversies as 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot on Aug. 9, leading to a series of protests in Ferguson, Missouri that shook the entire country.

The community saw the passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Opponents referred to the bill as an open door to discrimination, notably against the LGBTQ community, but Gov. Bryant passed it April 3.

On the other side of the spectrum, a much more progressive decision was made for Mississippi and its same-sex couples as U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriages Nov. 25.

The Golden Eagles picked up on the way football season ended in 2013, with the first win in two years, and continued their gradual progression, finishing 2014 with a total of three wins. If the results are not bright, they are better and representative of the mindset of everyone in this community: heads up high, looking up, advancing to the top.