CLEVELAND, Miss. — Delta State University held its General Convocation at the Bologna Performing Arts Center Thursday, August 10. New faculty, staff and student government leaders were recognized and DSU President Daniel J. Ennis delivered his first State of the University address.
Provost Dr. Andrew Novobilski welcomed attendees and introduced each speaker. The assembly was addressed by Jeffrey Farris, President of the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce. He spoke to the relationship between gown and town and pledged the support of the local business community to the university. “It’s a special time in the life of the university,” he said. “Please know that we support you and want you to be very involved during your time here.”
President of the Faculty Senate, Dr. Christopher Jurgenson introduced the new faculty members, and Holly Ray, Chair of the Administrative Staff Council introduced new staff members. Dr. Eddie Lovin, Vice President of Student Affairs then introduced the SGA officers for the upcoming year.
Ashley Tanksley, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions, spoke next, emphasizing the necessity of all DSU employees to be ambassadors for the university. “There will be numerous opportunities for collaboration with the Office of Admissions and Recruitment,” she said. “We want you to be involved.”
Novobilski then introduced Ennis, who praised his predecessors while noting that they faced many of the same challenges that he, as the university’s ninth president, now faces. He noted the many successes of previous years, and said, “Folks can tell me about the glory days, and I’m glad for those who have such memories, but I would not be here if I didn’t think there was some glory ahead.”
Ennis outlined steps he has taken since his arrival to balance the university’s budget, and indicated that, while the goals of the administration are to return enrollment to previous levels, budgets must reflect the reality of current enrollment numbers. “This fall,” he said, “I will convene a body that will discuss the financial profile of Delta State University – that is, our tuition revenue, state support, our other funding sources, and our obligations. I will ask that body to consider how Delta State can and should operate under our actual fiscal conditions as they exist right now.”
He stated that the budget goals for DSU are all minimum expectations for a well-run public university. He said, “One – we are to end each fiscal year not just even, that is showing no deficit, but with a five percent contingency of reserve funds. In other words, every year should end slightly, so very slightly, in the black. This should be normal. Two – the university should have on any given day 90 days of cash on hand to cover operational expenses. Right now, we have about 40 days of cash on hand. That cash on hand, of course, will be built up because we will end each year with a small surplus. Three – the university will maintain sufficient revenue to cover its annual debt service at the rate set by the IHL. I don’t want to get too technical here, but think of it this way—this university, like all universities, carries debt. The ratio between our debt and our capacity to make payments must move into a range deemed acceptable to the State of Mississippi.”
He noted, “This will take years, and this will be frustrating.”
Ennis then spoke to the state of the university as he sees it after just over two months in his new position. “I think back to Dr. Caston’s remarks from 2022, when he reminded his listeners that Delta State had something special about it, some quality that sets it apart. So, I’m not going to give you a clichéd assessment of the state of the university. Let all the presidents of all the less interesting universities in America declare that the state of their university is ‘solid.’ Delta State isn’t like other universities, and words like ‘solid’ and ‘stable’ aren’t enough for the unconquerable spirit of the Statesmen. My friends, the state of the university, the state of this university, is lit.”
After pausing for the applause and laughter that his assessment triggered, he continued. “The young people are laughing because they think I am misusing slang. I assure you, students, that I have no idea who Travis Scott is – why would I know that? I’m a British Literature scholar.”
He elaborated by saying that he did not mean lit in the terms of current slang, but in the context of providing illumination. “No, I mean I ‘lit’ in its simplest form. ‘Lit’ is the past participle of the verb ‘to light.’ This university is lit, it is a place set alight, it is illuminated, it is shined upon, and it is shining.”
Ennis concluded his address by saying, “Don’t be persistently distracted by worries about the state of the university. We can’t go wrong when we focus on the students in front of us, when we invite them to sit down in the glow of our respect and affection. I assure you, the state of this university is lit. We keep it lit. And that light cannot go out on our watch.”
Video replay of the event is available at livestream.com/deltastateuniversity/events/10928527/videos/237187366.