On Monday, Feb. 3, The Daily Mississippian published an opinion column titled “We need to stop saying ‘Ole Miss.’” The author, Zach Borenstein, compared the affectionate nickname of our university to racially charged phrases, but he misses the point of tradition entirely.
My friends and I recently discussed the waning respect for tradition on our campus. From changing the school mascot to governing bodies voting to move the Confederate statue to contextualizing many buildings on campus, Ole Miss has lost its identity. Those who do not take the time to understand the importance of tradition may never know the beauty of our campus. The sweeping changes our great university has had over the past few years are indicative of a historically ignorant society.
The attack on Ole Miss reminds me of attacks the Left has levied against several American traditions. Holidays like Thanksgiving and Columbus Day are no longer acceptable because their histories are marred by oppression of minorities, but when we write off these days as “racist” and “insensitive,” we forget how important they were to the founding of this nation.
Thanksgiving is not a symbol of the white man’s domination of Native Americans, at least not anymore, nor is Columbus Day praising the horrible sins done to indigenous people. In fact, virtually no one celebrates these holidays in that context.
Like all countries, the United States has some moments to be extraordinarily proud of and others to look on with grief for the pain caused to others, but both Thanksgiving and Columbus Day — along with many other American traditions — culminate the founding and success of a nation built on freedom and justice. We remember these days to laud the great American spirit, not relive the horrors done to past generations.
Similarly, this is how we engage with traditions at Ole Miss. I agree with Borenstein and others that the origin story for the term “Ole Miss” is not one to celebrate. However, like many things in life, it has taken on a new meaning: that of affection for the school that nurtures us and grows us to change the world around us.
Few who utter the name “Ole Miss” conjure up images of slavery and oppression of black people. Rather, we reminisce over the joys and struggles, laughter and tears, triumphs and failures at this wonderful university. The traditions of our school are encompassed in the name “Ole Miss” as it ties together generations of alumni who have forged their path and accomplished great things.
Ole Miss is James Meredith and his revolutionary stand to desegregate the university. Ole Miss is first-generation Mississippi residents and their push to bring education to the poorest corners of this state. Ole Miss is Saturdays in the Grove and weekends in the right field of Swayze. Ole Miss is a top-tier research university and highly ranked accountancy program. Ole Miss is all of these things and more because generations of students have devoted their time and talents to shape the culture and traditions that our proud university stands on.
Why toss such a meaningful nickname to the wind because its distant history wasn’t pretty? The once muddied name “Ole Miss” has taken on new meaning and created a place built on traditions we can all be proud of. So, don’t change the name of the university. Keep Ole Miss a place where students understand its traditions and take pride in the institution it has become.
Lauren Moses is a junior economics and political science major from Coppell, Texas.