For decades, Ole Miss has made progressive efforts to refine itself while upholding the same outdated traditions. Those traditions have long been a threat to minority students like myself.
The Grove, for instance, has been a tradition for decades. During the 1980s, the Grove became a well-known place for students and faculty to park their vehicles on during game days. However, one game day in 1982, some students gathered and protested that the university needed to take initiative about saving trees throughout the Grove. University officials agreed and made a new policy indicating only “light” vehicles could park on the beloved area. While this is a seemingly straightforward situation, other concerns regarding the Grove have not been so easily solved.
In the same year, the university’s first African-American male cheerleader made the roster. He brought attention upon a particular tradition that the cheerleaders had been previously engaged in: flying the Confederate flag. He made the statement, “In the same way whites have been taught to wave it with pride, I have been taught not to wave it for what it represents.” This protest quickly spread throughout the campus, emphasizing how such images and symbols affected the university’s public image, especially in regards to advocating for diversity.
In actuality, many of our current students, parents and some faculty continue to wear stickers and shirts supporting bringing back the waving of the Confederate flag in the Grove. When Chancellor Robert Khayat determined that he would eliminate the Confederate flag on campus two decades ago, he received death threats.
During homecoming weekend, I walked through the Grove and was greeted by a crowd of people laughing and making other joyful noises. To my surprise, I noticed an older man dressed in a red suit and white facial hair — resembling Colonel Reb. Gathered around him, several people posed for pictures and others took pictures of those same people.
For the first time since I was a freshman, I was uncomfortable.
I understand that the university has its tradition it wants to uphold, but equality and diversity should be rising to the top of the list of importance. If the university ever expects its African-American student enrollment to increase, it must act to revolutionize its ideologies to better fit its growing student population. This ideology is particularly apparent in the recent sequence of events involving the School of Journalism and New Media’s namesake, Ed Meek. It is instances like those that continue to steer people of color away from the university and Oxford community.
It’s time for a change.
There must be a serious sense of change and advancement towards the welcoming and inclusion of other races on campus.
Cami Macklin is a junior pre-pharmacy major from Terry.