I’ve been behind you for three years. Literally. Section E, Row 9 season tickets. In fact, I’ve been behind several coaches spanning one really great season, some not-so-stellar recent seasons and one run at 23 consecutive losses. I have always been behind you.
Though, I doubt you would have noticed, because I’ve never seen you turn around. If you had, you would have seen support from a strong alumni base, families of players and band members, and people like me … faculty and staff who didn’t graduate from Southern Miss, but still come to sit behind you and the team. Win or lose.
For the past eight years, I have poured my heart into this institution. We have built an incredible research and academic program with the support of the community, alumni, state and federal legislators, university administration … and most importantly the 350 faculty, staff and students of our program.
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The life blood of our program is the ability for us to recruit and retain the best and the brightest. But, they simply will not come to Southern Miss if they feel our attitudes on sexual assault are compromised. And, I emphasize ‘attitudes’, not proof, because that is where the residual culture of sexual assault lingers. That culture has no place in academics, no place in the laboratory or the field, and certainly no place in athletics.
The law takes care of itself, and the law makes it clear that sexual assault is to be punished. President Bennett, however, has made it clear that we strive to be better than the law. Southern Miss is a place where students want to attend, staff want to work and faculty want to teach because of the policies and practices set, and ultimately enforced, by President Bennett.
He has my full and unwavering support. I sincerely hope that your letter criticizing President Bennett’s hiring decision was only a temporary lapse of judgment. But if not, I will not be behind you in Section E, Row 9 next year.
I do not work at Southern Miss because of the football program. I work at Southern Miss for President Bennett. You’ll find me behind him.
Monty Graham, Director
USM School of Ocean Science and Engineering