The University of Mississippi's Associated Student Body, the school's student governing council, passed a resolution Tuesday calling for the university to remove the Mississippi state flag from campus because it has the Confederate battle emblem on it, The Christian Science Monitor reports.
According to the resolution, the flag "divides the campus, undermines the school's efforts to promote diversity, and violates the university's creed, which calls for respect for the dignity of each person."
The measure was passed 33 to 15.
According to The Clarion-Ledger, the resolution was co-authored by sophomore-year senator Allen Coon along with multiple student organizations.
“It’s just overwhelming to know that the voices of students that are affected by this image, that feel excluded by this image, that are hurt by the symbol, that their voices were heard," Coon said after the vote. "It means that we truly are taking steps toward progress, that we care about change, that we care about students and that we respect difference.”
The response on social media has been overwhelmingly positive, matching the tone of the student body.
One reporter on Twitter explained the historical significance of the students' decision.
The vote comes on the heels of a campus-wide rally against the state flag last Friday.
“I think that holding onto these symbols of white supremacy and of these symbols of exclusion, it only perpetuates this image and this stereotype that already follows the University of Mississippi,” Dominique Scott, sociology undergrad, NAACP member, and one of the speakers at the event, told the Hattiesburg American. “It definitely detracts from our mission of inclusion and progression and making this place a safe space for all people.”
According to the American, a group "of about 10 counter-protestors" attended the rally as well, including self-proclaimed members of the Ku Klux Klan who had visible KKK tattoos as well as shirts for other white supremacy and hate groups.
John Brahan, ASB Senate Vice President, chalked the resolution's success up to the presence of the hate groups, telling the The Clarion-Ledger it "persuaded some senators to vote in favor."
Brahan during the meeting called the flag’s inclusion of the Confederate emblem “a symbol of hate."
“For once, the ASB Senate is actually doing something more than congratulating the football team and looking for crosswalks to put on campus. We are pushing social issues,” he said. “The ASB does not have power, but what we do have is influence.”
That lack of power is important to note. The ultimate decision will be made by senior officials at the school, The Washington Post notes. Regardless of the university's ultimate decision, the students aren't stopping at the flag.
“This is the first step of many,” student senator Coon said. “Our campus is rife with Confederate iconography. We intend to address these symbols in the coming months.”
Scott, the undergrad who spoke at the rally, said that the school's nickname could be the next subject the student activists tackle. She told Democracy Now that she never uses the name "Ole Miss" when referring to the school.
“The term “Ole Miss” is definitely steeped in a history of racial oppression," Scott said. "Historically, the term “Ole Miss” is a term that slaves used to refer to the mistresses and/or matriarchs of their plantations.”
These students may have an ally in likely incoming university chancellor Jeffrey Vitter who, while giving no comment on the flag issue, told the Associated Press he is committed to diversity on campus and is "very supportive of what the students are doing this year."
This would not be the first time that the school made cosmetic changes to distance itself from Confederate iconography. Though the sports teams are called the Rebels, the school retired the Colonel Reb mascot in 2010.
You can read more about the changes going on at the University of Mississippi here.
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