The University of Mississippi has removed its state flag from campus, with police officers lowering and folding it up in a ceremony at the school’s Lyceum Circle. After calls from staff, administrators and students the University decided is was unfit to have the state flag fly on campus due to a mismatch with the university’s values.
The official state flag includes a Confederate battle emblem on its left corner, something that Chancellor Morris Stocks says doesn’t match the university’s values of respect and civility. The University has joined other state leaders and organizations that demand a change in Mississippi’s flag.
On October 16, more than 200 people attended a campus protest that supported the removal of the state flag from campus. A few days later the Associated Student Body Senate voted 33-15-1 for the flag’s removal, FoxNews reports. The Graduate Student Council and the Staff Council of the University backed the Student Body Senate’s resolution calling for the flag to come down.
Morris explain that the decision was hard to make in view of the flag meaning different things to different people:
“I understand the flag represents tradition and honor to some. But to others, the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued. That is why the university faculty, staff and leadership have united behind this student-led initiative,” the school reports via Ole Miss, University of Mississippi News.
According to the same source:
“The flag will be preserved in the University Archives along with resolutions from students, faculty and staff calling for its removal.”
The Associated Press says the public display of Confederate banners and symbols has been under extensive scrutiny following the racially-driven Charleston massacre in which nine black worshipers were killed by a man shown posing with the Confederate flag in photos prior to the shooting.
The flag was put to a statewide vote in 2001, where residents voted in favor of keeping the flag that has been in use since 1894. Statewide initiatives in cities such as Columbus, Magnolia and Greenwood signed petitions or issued orders for removing the state flag following the Charleston shooting.
The University has confronted Old South symbolism before with riots breaking out when the University accepted its first black student back in 1962 and when the university decided to withdraw the Colonel Rebel mascot that bore strong resemblance to white plantation owners, the Associated Press reports via MSNBC.
Reactions to the flag removal were mixed. As Eliott C. McLaughlin reports for CNN, many students were ‘elated’ to discover that the banner was taken down early in the morning while others consider the move a mistake.
Now, four state universities in total do not fly the state flag on campus, with Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University, and the Alcorn State University being the other three.