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Contextualization Committee to Receive Input on New Language for Plaque by April 8

The Confederate Monument is prepared for the new language on its plaque.
The Confederate Monument is prepared for the new language on its plaque.

Today, University of Mississippi’s Chancellor Jeff Vitter sent out a letter to students, faculty and alumni that discusses the outcome of the last Thursday meeting between himself, the university chapter of NAACP and the contextualization committee over the language of the new plaque that will appear on the Confederate Monument soon.

In the letter, Chancellor Vitter said that the contextualization committee will consider changes to the proposed words of the new plaque on the Confederate Monument. He invited the University of Mississippi community to share its input by emailing context@olemiss.edu before April 8.

The committee also issued a message on news.olemiss.edu: “We will consider all the input we receive and then recommend to Chancellor Vitter either no change to the current language on the plaque or a specific revision based on the additional input.”

The committee consists of Drs. Donald Cole, Andrew Mullins, Charles Ross and David Sansing, who were all appointed by then-interim chancellor Dr. Morris Stocks.

However, the university’s chapter of NAACP said they “reluctantly conceded to that solution,” following the last Thursday meeting with Chancellor Vitter and the contextualization committee.

Last night, the campus NAACP posted on its Facebook (Facebook.com/UMNAACP) its thoughts on the meeting. When asked about the author of the status, a spokesperson said the statement is from the university chapter.

The university NAACP said in its post that while Chancellor Vitter wanted to move forward in respect of former Chancellor Dan Jones’ 2014 Action Plan, the chapter stated that “if the process was wrong, he should fix it.”

The post reads (at the end):

“Chancellor Vitter was reluctant to say that the process was flawed, but conceded that the process did need reform. He also stated, for the future that he will look into expanding the contextualization committee from 4 to 8 members. The Chancellor ultimately came up with the decision that he would allow the plaque committee to look at possible revisions. However, it came with the caveat that if the committee does not think a revision is necessary then we would have to support the original plaque. We reluctantly conceded to this solution, but had an issue with no newly reformed committee to address these potential revisions as well as little accountability. This is definitely progress but we will continue to push for a change in the language. This is not over. The struggle continues.”

Chancellor Vitter also wrote in his letter that later this semester, he will “formally establish the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Contextualization.”

He wrote, “The goal is to provide a process going forward that is transparent, inclusive, and aligned with our Creed. I am pleased to report that Drs. Cole, Mullins, Ross, and Sansing have agreed to serve on this new committee, and we will add additional experts to the committee after seeking input from the university community. The advisory committee will be charged with completing contextualization of the remaining three projects (Johnson Commons, Lamar Hall, and Vardaman Hall), determining if and how other contextualization projects should be undertaken, and assisting in telling more of the story of the university’s history.”

Chancellor Vitter’s letter might be accessed on flagship.olemiss.edu at this link: http://flagship.olemiss.edu/chancellor-blog.html

Below is the university’s NAACP’s statement as posted on Facebook.

The following discusses our meeting with Chancellor Vitter and the plaque committee:
Prior to Thursday’s meeting with Chancellor Vitter, we were concerned with the lack of transparency of the contextualization process, the committee selection process and the lack of student involvement. We believed the plaque committee was not as transparent as the Sensitivity and Respect committee which also had a large amount of student involvement. We also thought it was unfair that administrators were appointed to this committee instead of faculty experts on the Civil War.
The meeting included the Chancellor, the plaque committee, members from the Critical Race Studies Group & the UM NAACP chapter. In the meeting, we stated our concerns with the committee selection process and lack of student involvement which we believe led to the failure in plaque language. Furthermore, we were aware of the plaque in early October and were told by the Chancellor along with other minority organizations that a plaque was ordered in late January. The lack of information regarding plaque language provided to our community over the course of three months showcases the lack of engagement throughout the process.
During the meeting members of the plaque committee voiced similar concerns about language, student involvement, and transparency. Several members of the committee stated they were willing to look at revisions of the plaque language, but Chancellor Vitter was hesitant. The Chancellor was hesitant about revising the plaque because of the overwhelming student support and suggested an inability to create perfect language. We countered by stating that making a decision because of majority support is not a valid argument. We also pointed out that we never asked for perfect language, however, the lack of community engagement hindered the creation of better language.
The Chancellor wanted to “move forward” to respect the former chancellor’s process, but we stated if the process was wrong, he should fix it. Chancellor Vitter was reluctant to say that the process was flawed, but conceded that the process did need reform. He also stated, for the future that he will look into expanding the contextualization committee from 4 to 8 members.
The Chancellor ultimately came up with the decision that he would allow the plaque committee to look at possible revisions. However, it came with the caveat that if the committee does not think a revision is necessary then we would have to support the original plaque. We reluctantly conceded to this solution, but had an issue with no newly reformed committee to address these potential revisions as well as little accountability.
This is definitely progress but we will continue to push for a change in the language. This is not over. The struggle continues.


Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor at HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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