Today marks six weeks from the date that every Interfraternity Council fraternity on campus signed and released a letter condemning the acts of the individuals responsible for the desecration of the James Meredith statue and promising efforts of inclusion.
As The Daily Mississippian editorial staff has planned and produced update stories on the incident, we have anticipated hearing plans from some of those fraternities about the inclusivity they preached in the letter.
We’re still waiting, and we’re growing impatient.
That letter was published in The DM Feb. 19. On Feb. 20, The Los Angeles Times published it. That’s some big-time exposure for a letter that everyone at the university commended. It cast some positive light on the fraternities for the first time in a while, and it has kept the media off their backs for the six weeks.
Personally, I was proud to see the fraternity leadership prove to the university and the world they are actually leaders. In the past few week, though, I have begun to question the leadership I initially saw.
That letter was absolutely not a get-out-of-jail-free card. We won’t just coast into summer break and forget about it. Sure, it meant a great deal to many to read those words at the time. But the thing is, it was more than a letter – it was a signed promise not only to Ole Miss, but to the world. A vast responsibility now lies in the hands of every fraternity president on campus, and I’m not convinced they know it.
In the letter, the IFC presidents wrote: “We feel compelled to ask ourselves how we can open our doors, become more inclusive, and take immediate actions in becoming part of the solution.” Where are those immediate actions? Will they become more inclusive? Are their doors open? Some of the fraternities have already done many productive things in these areas, even before the letter went out. The sad truth is, most haven’t, and the whole group must take responsibility for it.
Many of the fraternities might already have created specific plans to help alleviate some of the racial problems we have on campus, and it’s possible those fraternities purposefully haven’t shared those plans yet. I truly hope that is the case, and I’d love to hear about them. I’m not a hard person to get in touch with.
But as far as I can tell from social media and speaking with many fraternity members on campus, all that has been done the past six weeks is plan and participate in spring parties.
Let me assure everyone of this: The DM will hold these fraternities accountable until they produce specific plans. Until then, we will perceive their silence as an indicator that nothing will be done.
Some people might believe this column is unjustly targeting the traditionally-white fraternities on campus. This column, and future columns and articles The DM will pursue, became fair game when those president of IFC organizations signed their names on the letter.
It takes anyone with decent penmanship and public relations sense to write that letter, and it takes a fraternity president with half a brain to realize the letter needed to be signed. But it takes true leaders to put those promises into practice.
To me, one of the most disrespectful things a person can do is make a promise and ignore it. I hope that’s not happening here at Ole Miss, but it’s damn sure starting to feel like it.
One line of the letter really stuck out to me: “We commit ourselves to the tenets of the University Creed, specifically ‘respect and dignity for each person’ and ‘fairness and civility,’ to lead us through these times.”
If the fraternity presidents truly grasped and understood that sentence, they would let their actions prove their knowledge.
Respect your university and treat her people with dignity, and do what you said you would do. Be fair and civil to us, and live up to your word.
Until then, expect more of this.
Adam Ganucheau is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Mississippian from Hazlehurst.