Find a way to bring it back
There are still more questions than answers, but on Tuesday the officials who control public higher education in Mississippi made one thing clear: the University of Southern Mississippi intends to return to its Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.
While the fate of the older buildings ravaged by Hurricane Katrina remains in doubt, the newer facilities on the beachfront property should be reopening as classrooms in the near future.
This is one of the most encouraging announcements that South Mississippi in general and the city of Long Beach in particular could receive. While USM has facilities in all three coastal counties, its campus in Long Beach was by far its largest investment beyond its historic campus in Hattiesburg.
And even though the Gulf Park operation was proclaimed a dual campus of USM several years ago, some have wondered if that status would survive Katrina’s winds and storm surge.
Apparently, it has.
Dr. Thomas C. Meredith, the state’s Commissioner of Higher Education, said Tuesday that the College Board – as the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning is commonly known – would vote next week to resume classes on the Gulf Park campus.
At the same time, Meredith said, the College Board is also “thinking ahead” about the higher education needs of South Mississippi and exploring the possibility of an additional educational site – perhaps as large as 150 acres – somewhere in the area.
Just how the College Board will accomplish the recovery of Gulf Park and the establishment of another major site for USM is a multimillion-dollar question for which there is not yet an answer.
But what is known – and what can and should be celebrated – is that both USM and the trustees of all eight of the state’s public universities are committed to the recovery of the Coast.
The Gulf Park campus in Long Beach could and should be a special part of that recovery process.
We are confident that now that the College Board has revealed its will, it will find a way to implement it.
Sun Herald, Biloxi/Gulfport