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Ole Miss ASB Votes Unanimously to Relocate Confederate Statue

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

Confederate Memorial Statue located in the Circle of the Ole Miss campus. Photo by Brantley Meaders.

Ole Miss’ Associated Student Body voted unanimously Tuesday, March 5 to relocate the Confederate statue at the edge of the Circle to the Confederate cemetery. The cemetery, where experts estimate between 400-700 Confederate and Union soldiers are buried, lies south of the Tad Smith Coliseum.

ASB is a student organization committed to supporting every student to be prepared for the next season of life by engaging student opinion about the nature of university and campus and elevating the student voice to campus leadership, the organization’s website states. It is made up of 47 university students.

However, the question of who has the authority to authorize the statue’s relocation is still up in the air.

The resolution includes the 2013 Mississippi Code 55-15-81 stipulating the “governing body” may move the memorial to an appropriate alternative location.

In a forum hosted Feb. 26 by UM Provost Noel Wilkin, a question was raised whether governing bodies on campus actually have the power to remove the statue.

“It’s clear to me that the Provost does not have the authority to move that statue,” Wilkin said. “It’s not clear to me based on my interpretations of the policies who the governing board is. For me, that’s where that process begins.”

Wilkin said the administration is working “to ensure we understand how to get clarity” on that governing body.

Prior to the unanimous vote, the decision to relocate the statue originated in ASB’s committee for inclusion and cross-cultural engagement last week; once it was passed, it moved onto the Rules Committee which approved the resolution.

Now that it has passed the Senate floor, the resolution will be in Vice President Walker Abel’s hands. If approved, it will continue up the chain of command to ASB President Elam Miller. Miller has the ability to either continue the approval or veto the resolution altogether.

From there, Dean of Students Melissa Sutton Noss and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brandi Hephner LaBanc must both give their approval before it is delivered to Interm Chancellor Larry Sparks.

The decision to create a resolution relocating the statue came after last month’s several rallies from both statue protestors and counter-protestors. 

Two Confederate groups—Confederate 901 and The Hiwaymen—organized a “Mississippi Stands” rally in Oxford Saturday, Feb. 23. 

The Mississippi Stands rally was in protest of the administration’s decision to remove several other of the school’s longstanding elements, such as the Confederate battle flag at football games, Colonel Reb and the song “Dixie” performed by the Ole Miss Band.

The Confederate rally was met with student and community-led counter-protestors who also participated in rallies on campus prior to the Confederate rally.

A Students Against Social Injustice (SASI) demonstration and a Black History Month March took place two days prior to the Confederate rally with the same message—to take down or remove the statue from its current location. 

During the Black History Month March, Jarrius Adams, president of the University of Mississippi Gospel Choir, delivered a speech that addressed several talking points: black leadership, the fight against institutional racism and the Confederate statue.

“This statue is not just stone and metal,” Adams said. “It is not just an innocent remembrance of a benign history. This statue celebrates a fictional, sanitized Confederacy.”

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