During my first three years at Ole Miss, I never saw what I saw on Saturday in the Grove. I saw a tent that had people from different racial, social and economic backgrounds all enjoying finger sandwiches while conversing with one another. Everybody’s Tent is a new initiative launched by the Associated Student Body to provide a tailgating space for individuals who typically would not have a place to Grove.
This is by far the best ASB initiative to promote inclusivity within the university that I have witnessed during my tenure as a student. For far too long, the Grove has been seen by some individuals as an unwelcoming place, where they do not fit in. But even after Saturday, the Grove will still seem an uninviting place to some.
I am certainly not suggesting that after one event the Grove is now a place where everyone truly feels accepted and invited. However, I will admit that the students within the ASB understand the importance of diversity in the Grove and are making great efforts to truly include everyone.
At the Freshman Convocation this year, Chancellor Jones spoke about each individual making the university his or her own. I would argue that people’s experiences in the Grove stand as the hallmark of the Ole Miss experience (along with locking the Vaught, wildly chanting “Hotty Toddy” and hearing “FIRST DOWN! Ole Miss!”).
For far too long too many of our students have felt like the Grove was not for them. This greatly saddens me because many students, specifically minority students, are missing out on the unique experiences and networking opportunities that occur in the Grove on Saturday afternoons.
The ASB plans on hosting Everybody’s Tent a few more times this season. This is a new tradition that I hope will continue long after I have graduated. But, more importantly, I look forward to the day when Everybody’s Tent will no longer be needed. It must be quite odd for me to say that, given that the first one just occurred.
I think once the need for Everybody’s Tent no longer exists, we, as the Ole Miss community, will have achieved a magnificent accomplishment. Why? If Everybody’s Tent in the Grove is no longer needed, this must mean that everybody’s tent in the Grove is truly everybody’s.
When I come back to the Grove as an alum, I hope to see what I saw in Everybody’s Tent in every tent in the Grove. In the past, I have admonished Ole Miss students when ignorance manifests itself in tweets or Facebook statuses. Now, I would like to commend the ASB for a job well done with Everybody’s Tent. This is the first step of many needed for Ole Miss to become its very best for everyone.
Tim Abram is a senior public policy leadership major from Horn Lake.