The Mississippi state flag will no longer fly at Ole Miss.
The decision to ditch the flag was spurred by the university's Oct. 20 student senate vote to ask school officials to remove it from campus, the university explained in a statement. The request was echoed by the Ole Miss Faculty Senate, the Staff Council, and the Graduate Student Council. The school's interim chancellor, Morris Stocks, quickly sided with the groups, saying that "the university faculty, staff, and leadership have united behind this student-led initiative.”
Members of the university in Jackson, Miss., were troubled by the Confederate symbol on the flag long before they voted to remove it from campus. Back in June, soon after a white shooter shot and killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, Stocks issued a statement urging the state to update the flag. "The University of Mississippi community came to the realization years ago that the confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values such as civility and respect for others," the chancellor said at the time, concluding, "We join other leaders in our state who are calling for a change in the state flag." An image of alleged shooter Dylann Roof standing beside a car with confederate plates was circulating at the time, reigniting the years-old debate over whether the confederate flag should be banned.
Stocks said that the decision to take down the flag entirely was difficult:
As Mississippi’s flagship university, we have a deep love and respect for our state… Because the flag remains Mississippi’s official banner, this was a hard decision. I understand the flag represents tradition and honor to some.
… but ultimately, not that difficult, because "to others, the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued."
The decision has not been welcomed by all. Some on Twitter are reacting with anger to the chancellor's decision:
And when the NAACP's University of Mississippi chapter demonstrated on campus last week against the flag, they were disrupted by members of the Ku Klux Klan. The Clarion-Ledger reported at the time:
Shaun Patrick Winkler, who has at times identified himself as an “Imperial Wizard” with the Ku Klux Klan according to The Southern Poverty Law Center, was among the group of about 10 counter-protesters in support of the state flag. In addition to Winkler, at least five adults wearing International Keystone Knights shirts and members of The League of the South congregated in The Circle. Several of the counter-protesters carried the Confederate or state flag and at least one had a visible KKK tattoo.
The University of Mississippi is not the only public institution that no longer flies the state flag. The Clarion-Ledger notes that Alcorn State University, Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University paved the way for Ole Miss—Jackson State and Mississippi Valley reportedly abandoned the flag years ago.
The flag was lowered and furled by campus police in a ceremony on Monday. It will be kept at the University Archives.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.