Ole Miss Made It Clear, Southern Miss Should Do the Same

The decision yesterday to remove the state flag from the campus of the University of Mississippi followed votes by the Student and Faculty Senates. In the case of the University of Southern Mississippi all it took was a decision by President Rodney D. Bennett earlier this morning. Here is his statement:

I have chosen to raise American flags on all University of Southern Mississippi flagpoles to remind the University community of what unites us. We have all chosen to work, study and live in a country in which debates like those around the state flag of Mississippi can take place and ideas can be civilly expressed and advanced. While I love the state of Mississippi, there is passionate disagreement about the current state flag on our campuses and in our communities. I am looking forward to a time when this debate is resolved and USM raises a state flag that unites us.

I can’t help but think that this is a rather hollow statement on the part of the president. Mississippi’s current state flag is certainly controversial and divisive but the president can’t seem to bring himself to state why. It is possible that as USM’s first black president, Bennett wanted to avoid injecting race into this issue, but, of course, that is exactly what this is about. Perhaps it doesn’t need to be laid out in such explicit terms, but I believe more is required given the absence of any vote by the student senate or campus debate that preceded the president’s decision in Oxford.

If you can’t state openly what this controversy is about on a college campus, where can you?

16 comments… add one
  • Leo Oct 28, 2015

    Your criticism of the USM president is unwarranted. He took action and it is well received by those of us here working to heal our state and for a new flag.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2015

      It’s not really a criticism as much as it is a question of why a more explicit statement was not issued. I agree with the decision, but I also believe that it is important to be transparent given that this was the work of one individual and not a response to a more widespread campus vote.

      • Leo Oct 28, 2015

        It sure reads like a criticism to me. He took a stand and that’s enough for the people on the ground here in Mississippi engaged in this issue.

        If anyone here deserves to be called out, it is Governor Bryant.

        http://m.wapt.com/news/governor-calls-out-ole-miss-over-state-flag-removal/36081494?utm_campaign=16%20WAPT%20News%20Jackson&utm_medium=FBPAGE&utm_source=Social

        • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2015

          Since when do you speak for all Mississippians?

          • Leo Oct 28, 2015

            I never said I did, only that your post reads like a criticism to me and those of us working for change. Why are you so thin skinned?

            His statement is well received by every group working to change the flag. I know because I’m involved with all of them.

            I’m sure it’s easy for you to judge others from your ivory tower, but you are only slightly less annoying than the neo-confederates you often wright about.

            Have a nice day. I won’t be back, so you can have the last word.

            • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2015

              I welcome his statement as well. My only concern was with what appears to be an unwillingness to directly confront the nature of the problem.

              I’m sure it’s easy for you to judge others from your ivory tower…

              Have a nice day from my ivory tower in a working class neighborhood in Boston. LOL

    • Boyd Harris Oct 28, 2015

      As a student at the University of Mississippi, I also question why the USM president chose act before a student resolution was passed. My school conducted a dialogue over the past month about the issue, hearing from the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty senates. During that time both sides received ample time to air their views and the whole world got a greater sense of the whole university’s direction. This provided a great learning experience for the students as well as further demonstrated to the world that “Ole Miss” is not how we want our school to be perceived.

      Also, there is precedent for the entire campus taking on symbols at Southern Miss:

      “The first athletic teams were called Tigers or Normalites. In 1924, the mascot was changed to the Yellow Jackets. In April 1940, the student body of the newly renamed Mississippi Southern College voted to name the teams Confederates; the name was changed to the Southerners in 1941. General Nat (named for Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest) became the Southerners’ mascot in 1953; his horse was named Son of Dixie.

      In 1972, an ad hoc committee appointed by the Alumni Association voted on submissions from alumni, faculty, students, and staff for a new name, and the name “Golden Eagles” was chosen.” -Wikipedia.

      President Bennett may wish to avoid bad P.R. (like the friggin Klan showing up in 2015), but instead he has merely given the supporters of the flag another example of the leadership ignoring the supposed will of the people. I hope the student government at Southern Miss goes forward with their discussion and releases a resolution in support of President Bennett.

      • Kevin Levin Oct 28, 2015

        I hope the student government at Southern Miss goes forward with their discussion and releases a resolution in support of President Bennett.

        Agreed. It would still be a meaningful vote and it would certainly help to apply more pressure on lawmakers in Jackson.

  • Andy Hall Oct 28, 2015

    It is possible that as USM’s first black president, Bennett wanted to avoid injecting race into this issue, but, of course, that is exactly what this is about.

    ____

    It’s that same reluctance that has kept real (and inevitably acrimonious) discussion of Confederate iconography in the public sphere suppressed for many years. Too many people, both elected officials and others who hold positions of prominence and influence, simply haven’t wanted to open the door to that discussion, knowing full well that the results were going to be loud and ugly. What we’ve seen these last months is not a sudden awareness that popped up de novo after the shooting in Charleston, any more than the unrest in Ferguson last year was simply about the death of Michael Brown. It’s the result of years, perhaps generations, of pent-up frustration with the status quo, until some event causes people to say, “enough.”

  • Eric A. Jacobson Oct 28, 2015

    Why state the obvious? Everyone knows why. The fact that Southern Miss followed so quickly behind Ole Miss says more than a press release EVER good. Following what Andy said about folks not wanting to open the door of discussion….this latest action shows that the time has come, and rather suddenly, when discussion is no longer needed. It is time to act, and boldly.

    I suspect Jackson is getting the message loud and clear.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 29, 2015

      Why state the obvious?

      I guess because I still believe that it is important to state the obvious as much as possible.

  • Jessie sanford Oct 28, 2015

    Kevin for once I agree with you. I live in Petal across the Leaf river from Hattiesburg so this is personal for me. If you don’t like the flag go through the process to change it, but don’t violate the will of the majority of the people of Mississippi as I would not come to the Noth East and demand the Confederate Battle Flag be flown because I am in the minority,

  • Patrick Jennings Oct 29, 2015

    Mississippi’s current state flag is clearly, clearly a symbol of near-history racism. Still, shouting that from the rooftops will only aggravate those who really believe it is all about heritage. I think the decision is a wise one. The president of USM is offering breathing room for a conversation to happen. Too many people want to “win” this argument (on both sides) without concern to the people involved, the people of Mississippi.

    I have spent many years as a college professor and historical interpreter and if I know one thing well, it is that you can never teach, and people will never learn, at the pitch of a scream.

    • Kevin Levin Oct 29, 2015

      I have spent many years as a college professor and historical interpreter and if I know one thing well, it is that you can never teach, and people will never learn, at the pitch of a scream.

      I am not asking the president of USM to scream, just to state clearly why the flag is problematic.

  • Rosieo Oct 29, 2015

    Asking for clarification is a good thing. I have a hard time understanding why people would be upset with that. Why are they?

    As for Mississippi’s flag, yes, it is a Mississippi issue -and- an American issue.

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