I believe it is fair to assume that the new Vice Chancellor position for diversity and inclusion was created in response to the events of last semester regarding the James Meredith statue. I believe it is also fair to assume that the events of that evening were not representative of the Greek community as a whole. With those two assumptions in mind, I do not agree with the report that was issued via mass email this morning, nor do I think that the creation of the new Vice Chancellor position is the best approach to creating a more diverse campus.
In your report, you discuss the implications of the nickname “Ole Miss,” and whether or not students and faculty should continue to use this nickname in professional settings. What real impact will come of this? Does changing our email address URL from “olemiss.edu” to “umiss.edu,” promote diversity? Or does it suggest that we are a school that is ashamed of itself and ashamed of its past? While the University of Mississippi has a history that we may not be proud of as modern Americans, the best approach is not to do what we can to erase the past. While it may seem like a noble idea to restrict “Ole Miss” to the athletic field, the fact is that I will continue to refer to the school as Ole Miss no matter what. Does this make me a racist? Or does this make me a student that is fond of the nickname (or simply fond of fewer syllables)? Simply put, I believe that our time and resources could be better spent on other issues rather than the connotations that a few people associate with the nickname “Ole Miss.”
To quote another section of the report, “The majority of the students participating in the discussion were Mississippians, and they blamed the bulk of the racially insensitive flare ups on ‘outsiders.’ They attributed this pattern to misconceptions held by out-of-state students who mistakenly assume the University is a place that embraces a racist ideology.” While I realize that this section of the report is a documentation of some of the conversations to be regarded as a “sample” rather than a comprehensive opinion poll of the campus, the fact that these opinions have been released as part of the report forces me to believe that it is these opinions that are the driving force behind the entire report. One of the easiest forms of diversity a campus can attain is by attracting students from other states. I am one of those students. How does it look when potential incoming students from other states see that many Mississippians on campus (which, if we’re being honest, the majority of students are from Mississippi) view them as instigators, racists, and outsiders? If I had seen a report like this when I was making my college decision, I can tell you that I would absolutely not view Ole Miss as a diverse campus. Perhaps there are other issues that need to be addressed, such as the discrimination against students from other states. If the primary goal in this entire situation is to promote diversity, consider these statements from past discussions, and target them as problems as well.
However, the comments about the Greek system are the most offensive. Chancellor Jones. I understand that these comments are not necessarily your opinion, and may not even be the opinion of many. As an Ole Miss student, a global ambassador, an ASB Senator, and an active member of my sorority, being referred to as a girl “wedded to the symbols and beliefs of the South’s racist past” simply for being a member of a Greek organization is both offensive, false, and, to be frank, it is hypocritical of the University of Mississippi to post such comments in a report trying to promote diversity. Because of the actions of three fraternity members last semester, the entire Greek community is now subjected to the scolding looks of faculty, administration, and every non-Greek student. How does that promote diversity?
I have not met a single person who condoned the actions of the boys who defiled the James Meredith statue. In fact, they were overwhelmingly rejected as “representatives” of their fraternity, and of the Greek system as a whole. So now where does this leave every Greek student on campus? I am involved all over campus, but since I am in a sorority, does that mean that I am nothing more than a burden to the project that is “diversity?” Greek students are now under the impression that you, Chancellor Jones, believe the Greek system is a “problem.” In your quest to promote diversity, I would encourage you to recognize the diversity and success that exists within the Greek system. Never once have Ole Miss Greek organizations been commended for their tireless philanthropic work, nor for their contributions to improving the campus. Many Greek students are involved in student government. Are those students also the problem that plagues our campus?
The real problem throughout this entire situation is that by trying to promote racial diversity, you are creating new problems. While I agree that our history as a state and as a school is not perfect, that does not mean the administration should ostracize one group at the benefit of another. By creating this new Vice Chancellor position for diversity and inclusion, you are suggesting to the rest of the world that Ole Miss is inherently a racist school, and her students are incapable of change on their own. And honestly, I do not believe that will do anything other than encourage other “outsiders” to consider other schools when weighing their college options.
While the isolated events of the past do deserve action and attention, blame should not be pinned on out-of-state students, or on the Greek system, simply because the actual perpetrators were both. As an out-of-state student and an active sorority member, it is offensive to read a report in which you claim to want nothing other than diversity, but in the same report, pin the blame on two groups of students. If you truly want to pursue diversity and inclusion, do so in a way that does not create more disenfranchisement along the way. Celebrate the diversity that exists without blaming the majority for the crimes of the minority.
You opened your report by addressing “All Who Love the University of Mississippi,” implying that, in order to truly love my school, I should agree with everything that followed in the report. Chancellor Jones, I love my school (arguably) more than anyone on this campus, and your report could use some more research, investigation, and a broader base of opinion quotes to be truly on the right track to a diverse university.
From, One who loves Ole Miss