Joe Paul

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Fraternity Suspended at USM | Arrest Made in Campus Assault

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – In response to a weekend assault, The University of Southern Mississippi University Police Department (UPD) has made an arrest while the school has removed campus recognition of and indefinitely suspended the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity from its Hattiesburg campus.

Arrested Wednesday night was 21-year-old Southern Miss senior Chase LaGarde, who is a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. He is charged with the aggravated assault of 19-year-old freshman Stuart Ramsey. According to UPD Police Chief Bob Hopkins, LaGarde agreed to turn himself in to law enforcement officers once he learned of the warrant for his arrest. LaGarde is in the Forrest County Jail awaiting his initial court appearance.

Wednesday night university officials and alumni representatives met with the members of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity informing them of the decisions regarding the local chapter. The National Sigma Phi Epsilon organization has revoked the charter of the chapter in concert with university actions. Residents of the fraternity house have until Friday to vacate the premises and permanently remove all individual and fraternity belongings.

“This action to close this fraternity comes not only from the apparent involvement of a member in an assault that occurred this weekend, but because of this chapter’s failure to govern its own members and comply with university rules over time,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul. “These actions are immediate and for a yet undetermined amount of time. We will begin conversations with the national organization and alumni chapter early next year to determine how and when Sigma Phi Epsilon may return to campus.”

“The Fraternity expects chapters to hold members accountable for behavior that puts our members and others at risk,” said Brian Warren, Sigma Phi Epsilon national fraternity executive director. “Our chapter at Southern Mississippi has demonstrated a pattern of irresponsible behavior. We cannot allow this chapter to continue operations.”

According to the UPD, Ramsey was assaulted late on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 4. Following the incident, the Jackson, Miss., student was hospitalized overnight. Since his discharge he has been assisting UPD in its investigation.

“Stuart has proven to be a resilient young man. We look forward to his return to school next semester and will continue to offer our support to him and his family toward that end,” stated Paul.

USM's Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Scheduled for Wednesday Dec. 1 on Campus

The University of Southern Mississippi’s fourth annual “Lighting the Way” celebration will be held Dec. 1 on the Hattiesburg campus. (Submitted photo)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Holiday cheer will be overflowing during the fourth annual “Lighting the Way” celebration on Wednesday, Dec. 1 at The University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg campus.

The program gets underway at 6 p.m. with vocal performances by two Southern Miss a cappella groups – the all-male Spirit of Southern Miss and the all-female Southern Belltones. More holiday music will be provided by Miss University of Southern Mississippi Jill Duckworth, members of Presbyterian Christian High School, Chi Omega Sorority at Southern Miss and Joy Kate Lawson of Jackson, who recently won the Mississippi State Fair talent competition.

“What started really as a campus celebration for the holidays has now transitioned into more of a partnership with the community,” said Brooks Moore, associate dean of students at Southern Miss. “The turnout has been better each year and we look forward to another great response for what promises to be a wonderful event for the Hattiesburg area.”

Those who attend will be treated to free hot chocolate and photos with Southern Miss mascot Seymour, who will be dressed as Santa Claus.

Approximately 30 small Christmas trees adorn the front entrance to the campus, decorated by student organizations and other Southern Miss departments. The 30-foot primary Christmas tree, which features more than 17,000 lights, sits on the front lawn of the Aubrey K. Lucas Administration Building. Avery’s Tree Farm in Purvis provided the main tree while the others came from Smith’s Christmas Tree Farm in Moselle and Lowe’s of Hattiesburg.

The program will culminate with the countdown to the tree lighting by Southern Miss President Martha Saunders and Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul.

Moore noted that each year groups that sponsor a tree also raise money to benefit a local non-profit organization or agency. This year approximately $3,000 was collected and will be presented to the Carpenter’s Helper, a local housing assistance program for community members.

Kiss a Pig Fundraiser at Southern Miss

University of Southern Mississippi Vice President for Advancement Bob Pierce make a donation to the "Kiss a Pig" fundraiser. (Photo by David Tisdale)

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – The “Kiss a Pig” contest gives University of Southern Mississippi students, faculty and staff a chance to support a great cause while bidding for a prominent campus figure to be chosen to kiss a live pig.

In support of this year’s annual Start! Heart Walk, set for Saturday, Sept. 25 at the university’s Pride Field, members of the university community will choose a campus celebrity in the “Kiss a Pig” fundraiser with the winner kissing a live pig Friday, Sept. 17 before the Golden Eagles’ home football game against the University of Kansas. All proceeds benefit the American Heart Association.

Votes for the celebrities can be made by putting monetary donations in jars representing the contestants, which will be placed at the library plaza Sept. 7-10 from 10:30 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. and in Shoemaker Square Sept. 13-17 from 10:30 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. The celebrity contestant with the largest donation total wins.

Celebrities in the Kiss a Pig contest include Southern Miss President Martha Saunders; Provost Bob Lyman; Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Paul; University Police Chief Bob Hopkins; and Vice President for Advancement Bob Pierce. The competition culminates on Century Lawn where the winner will kiss the pig prior to Eagle Walk.

Another way the campus community can support Start! Heart Walk and the American Heart Association is the “Pass the Bacon” contest, which runs through Sept. 17. Held in conjunction with the “Kiss a Pig” contest, faculty and staff pass decorated pigs to offices across campus with the goal of raising funds for the Heart Walk. When the faculty/staff member has paid $5 to have the pig removed from their desk, their name will be placed in a drawing for prizes.

For more information, contact your Heart Walk team captain for details, or contact Patricia Linton at 601.266.5767. To learn more about the Start! Heart Walk, online visit

USM Public Relations