With this week’s integration celebration events coming to a close, the Ole Miss community is challenged to continue working toward change.
This past Thursday at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College convocation, Chancellor Dan Jones said The University of Mississippi, as well as the country, have made many strides with race relations but are not where they need to be.
When people outside of the university and the state of Mississippi think of Ole Miss, there is usually an immediate jolt of reservation, according to some Ole Miss faculty and students.
“I think if we get them to understand that we do have problems, we can work together as a team,” Ole Miss freshman Gerald McLeod said. “We can attack these problems in a positive manner.”
Kirk Johnson, professor of sociology, anthropology and African-American studies, said one way to change perceptions is by having an open dialogue that is not censored.
“One of the biggest problems with the university and country as well is that these different perspectives on race tend to get in the way of constructive solutions,” Johnson said. “(We could) be brave enough to risk offending people having their feelings hurt and have an honest dialogue. I think that would be a huge step in the right direction.”
Johnson also said that while many other universities around the country can easily say they have equal opportunity, Ole Miss has to take extra measures to make sure equal opportunity exists because of the past.
The chancellor has taken the lead in making sure that the university is perceived by the country as an institution that welcomes people of all backgrounds.
“As a society here in this country, we’ve passed laws that have taken us a long way towards having equal opportunities for everyone,” Jones said. “The law is clear now that regardless of your race, religion and gender, this is a public institution and you could come here.”
While the doors to our university are open to all, Chancellor Jones also said some of the traditions at the university are uncomfortable for some.
In the convocation, Chancellor Jones cited the Grove as a place that everyone might not always feel welcome based on social class.
“I want to assure that we are not just legally opening doors, but that we are a place that is providing leadership, justice and equal opportunities all the way around,” he said.
“In my heart I want to know that there is not anything on this campus that is uncomfortable for you and that you feel like this is home for you.”
Many students and professors believe that the chancellor has done a great job of addressing Ole Miss’ past and that the appropriate measures are being taken to ensure a better future.
“I think we have a chancellor that really has it great on race,” Johnson said. “Probably more so than any other chancellor we’ve had.”