By STEVEN NALLEY
Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum discussed the need for more funding from the state government and his work with state officials to make that funding possible at a meeting of the MSU Faculty Senate Friday at Mitchell Memorial Library.
Keenum said he was recently in Jackson to reveal a new scholarship for student winners of the Mississippi Economic Council’s Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program, and he made a point of discussing the issue with Gov. Phil Bryant and state congressmen. In September, he said, he and other public university leaders approached the Mississippi House-Senate Joint Budget Committee and requested a 12.6 percent increase in support for all state institutions of higher learning.
“Our share in that increase would be almost 11 million for the university if the legislature is inclined to honor our request,” Keenum said. “Not all of it, but most of it will go into faculty salaries and new faculty positions. I’ll be honest with you, I’m not very optimistic that we’ll get a 12.6 percent increase, but I do hope that we get something.”
Keenum said one reason the university needs this extra funding is the legislature’s plan to address budget deficiencies in Mississippi’s Public Employee Retirement System. This plan would require MSU to pay more into PERS, and he estimates this new expense will add up to $4 million for the university.
“That’s a pretty big hit for us,” Keenum said. “That’s not in our budget now, so if we don’t get any additional funding and this mandate stays in place, that will be a $4 million hit to the university.”
Keenum said the university also uses state funds for improvements to the university, such as the new parking and classroom facility north of the YMCA building. He said he would also like to see the library expanded, and MSU needs a new engineering facility.
“We’ve already begun raising funds — private dollars — for a new engineering and science facility,” Keenum said. “We’re being successful to a point. I’d like to see that building funded at least with half the funds coming from private donations, but I need the bond authority before I can really, earnestly go out and leverage those bond funds with private dollars.”
Keenum also briefly discussed the university’s response to the cyber attack on one of MSU’s servers, as did MSU Chief Information Officer Mike Rackley. Both echoed their statements in MSU’s prior press release on the matter, saying that no sensitive employee data had been compromised.
Rackley said 525 of the people affected only had their Net ID, their email address and a time stamp reflecting MoneyMate deposits released by the hacker. Only nine more people had encrypted passwords released in addition to this information, Rackley said.
“In that regard, I went back and read the press release; it implies that all (534 people) were going to be contacted (about the attack),” Rackley said. “That was never the intent. In discussing it in the information security committee Wednesday afternoon, we concluded that there was really no sensitive information there (from the 525 people). So our intent is not to contact those 525, only the nine that had some significant potential exposure.”