The Ole Miss (University of Mississippi) student senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to remove the state flag of Mississippi from the Oxford campus because it contains references to the Confederate flag, Fox News is reporting.
Since 1894, the state flag of Mississippi has included the Confederate flag in its own flag, featured in the upper left-hand corner on top of blue, white, and red bars.
The Ole Miss student government’s vote — 33-15, with one voter abstaining — amounts to a nonbinding resolution intended to put pressure on school administrators to remove the flag. As of this post, there is no timetable for when Ole Miss administrators will consider the issue.
Student Senator Allen Coon, who wrote the resolution to remove the Mississippi flag, says the vote is about dignity.
“The Confederate emblem that’s on the state flag is deeply connected and rooted in ideas of white supremacy and racial oppression, and that symbol has no place on our campus. If we claim to respect the dignity of each person, that flag cannot fly on our campus.”
The Confederate flag has long been a source of heated debate. Supporters say it represents the history and heritage of the South, while detractors say it’s associated with racism and slavery.
And while the Confederate flag controversy has ebbed and flowed over the years, it became the subject of renewed focus in June 2015, after white supremacist Dylann Roof shot and killed nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church, with a goal toward starting a race war.
Amid renewed calls to remove the Confederate flag from public property and to remove references from it in existing state flags, three Southern states, according to MSN, have taken action. South Carolina voted this year to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds, and Alabama followed suit shortly after. Florida voted this week to remove the Confederate flag from its state seal.
Mississippi, meanwhile, has steadfastly resisted calls to remove the Confederate flag from state property, and to remove it from the official state flag. In 2001, residents voted to keep the flag as it is, and representatives in Mississippi’s government are reluctant to take any action on it today. Although, as Fox News notes, several Mississippi counties and cities have stopped flying the state flag since the Charleston shootings.
At Ole Miss, the Confederate flag has become something of a sticking point as well. Until recently, the sports teams’ mascot was a white-haired old man resembling a plantation owner. Ole Miss has since retired that mascot, although its sports teams are still called the Rebels (a reference to Confederate soldiers in the Civil War). He has since been replaced by a bear.
— College Football (@holidayhqteam) September 23, 2015
— RebelPix (@RebelPix) November 24, 2014
Whether or not Ole Miss administrators will abide by the resolution to remove the flag from campus remains to be seen. Just this Monday, the university announced its decision to hire Jeffrey Vitter to become the new Ole Miss Chancellor, and he has not taken a position one way or the other on the flag issue.
“I’m very supportive of what the students are doing this year in terms of talking about the issue of the flag and having that discussion.”
Not all Ole Miss students are on board with the idea of removing the Mississippi flag from campus. Student Andrew Soper started a petition on Change.org to put pressure on the administration to keep the flag flying.
“Politically correct positions should not be forced onto the students of the University of Mississippi by a few liberal leaning students and organizations, and media bias.”
Do you believe Ole Miss should remove the Mississippi state flag from campus because it contains a reference to the Confederate flag? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/Joseph Sohm]