Ole Miss community reacts, moves forward

Posted on Nov 9 2012 - 3:33am by Lacey Russell
0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 LinkedIn 0 Google+ 0 Email -- Buffer 0 Filament.io 0 Flares ×

Two arrests were made early Wednesday morning during a disturbance on campus that followed the election results Tuesday night, but no one was injured according to University officials.
 
Chancellor Dan Jones said the use of the term “riot” was inappropriate in light of the real scale of the event.
 
University Police Chief Calvin Sellars declined to provide details about the disturbance beyond the statements made by university officials.
 
“‘Incident’ is the term that I have used to describe (Tuesday) night,” Jones said in an interview with The Daily Mississippian.
“We had a gathering of students with some inappropriate behavior — particularly the hate language was very, very disappointing — but we didn’t have anything that approached a riot on our campus.”
 
Jones also said the fact that such disagreements would even occur at the university is disappointing.
 
“First, we have relief that people are safe now that the campus is a safe environment, and no one had personal injury and no property was lost,” he said.
 
Dean of Students Spark Reardon agreed.
 
“The end result was that we had students participating in an activity in total disregard for what we believe as a university,” Reardon said an interview with The Daily Mississippian.  “It’s reprehensible.”
 
Reardon stressed that the Ole Miss campus is completely safe and echoed Jones’ feeling of disappointment about the disturbance.
 
“This behavior is an embarrassment and has no place at this university, and those students who participated in this behavior need to reconsider whether they want to be part of this university. The creed says ‘as a voluntary member of this university.’ My guess is that if they were acting like that, they were the types of students who are probably not going to make it academically to be here next year anyway.”
 
Reardon is optimistic that the Ole Miss community will come together to solve the problem.
 
“I think we have to consider this a basis for dialogue and continued advancement, and we have to be aware that we have not made progress by sitting idly by and talking about how much progress we’ve made,” he said.
 
“We’ve made it through dialogue; we’ve made it through discussion; we’ve made it through patience and tolerance, and so I think we’ve got to continue to teach, we’ve got to continue to educate and we’ve got to continue to hold the tenants of the creed before our community.”
 
Student body president Kimbrely Dandridge observed that Wednesday’s disturbance shed a negative light that needs to be addressed moving forward.
 
“What has happened is in the past, we cannot take it back,” Dandridge said.  “What we can do is move forward.
“I think it’s time for the university to come together and address certain issues.”
 
Jones assured the community that the university takes such matters seriously and will work to prevent such disagreements from happening in the future.
 
“The review of this incident will go forward, and students who are found to have broken the law will be referred to the appropriate authorities who are dealing with that, and students who have been in violation of our university’s student policies will be dealt with through the student conduct process,” Jones said.
 
In light of the 50 years of integration celebration
 
“In remembering the events from 50 years ago, we did a number of things: We expressed regret about the difficulty of the past and the mistakes of the past and we openly recognized significant progress in our university, but we also, very candidly, acknowledged that we still live in a world that’s imperfect and that still needs progress,” Jones said. “This is another piece of evidence that the world that we live in is not the kind of world that we want.
 
“So it is disappointing that an incident would occur on our campus where hate language would be used and particularly because of our university’s difficult history, it’s more painful here than it is in some other atmospheres.”
 
Steven Ponder, senior executive associate athletics director for external relations, reminded members of the Ole Miss community and outside observers alike that the problems that surfaced last night are neither unique to the university nor the state of Mississippi.
 
“Ole Miss has a history that has been well-documented in terms of issues that happened across America, not just Mississippi,” Ponder said. “But 50 years ago, what happened in Mississippi happened all over America.
 
“It’s an American problem, not a Mississippi problem. But perception follows Mississippi as it relates to race from 50 years ago. Ole Miss has to deal with that and has to be at the forefront of that.”
 
Graphic design and English senior Tarah Wiley said she is “slightly embarrassed” for the university.
 
“We have overcome so much as a state and a university,” she said. “We just need to learn how to become ‘one,’ and I think that’s what this is doing.”
 
Candlelight Walk a sign of unity
 
Wednesday night, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Union for the “We are One Mississippi Candlelight Walk,” which was sponsored by the The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.
 
Michelle Coffee, assistant professor of southern studies, helped organize the event, who said what took place Tuesday evening was “heartbreaking” for students.
 
“You shouldn’t have to process like that while you’re trying to figure out who you are at college,” she said.
 
Public policy leadership freshman Cody Smith witnessed the disturbance.
 
“I saw a lot of people just watching,” he said. “I just hope no one gets the bad impression of the university.”
 
Royce White, adjunct instructor in finance, and his wife Angela came to show support for the university.
 
“We both love this university very much,” Angela said.
 
Royce said he felt that the disturbance was “people letting their emotions get in the way of them.”
 
The Whites brought candles from their wedding 36 years ago to light at the walk.
 
“We figured it unified us, so it will unify the university, too,” Angela said.
 
The walk began at the Union and ended at the Lyceum steps where Hope Owens-Wilson, southern studies junior and convener of One Mississippi which is a multiracial and multiethnic dialogue group on campus. She said the disturbance Tuesday evening represents feelings that “are not conducive” to creating a welcoming community.
 
“This whole year has been focused on commemorating the progress this university has made,” Owens-Wilson said. “And to regress, at this critical juncture, will endanger this university legacy.”
 
The University of Mississippi Creed was read aloud three times by those present.
 
Jones concluded the event saying the outcome of the walk was the university’s response to the disturbance.
 
“I can’t tell you what it feels like to stand here and see you there in support of justice and in support of civility and in support of respect for all people,” he said.
 
Jones said the disturbance will not define Ole Miss.
 
“We will not be defined by hate,” he said. “There is no tolerance for hate.”