Everyone knows the common refrain from students every May: “You’ll blink your eyes, and you’ll be a senior about to graduate,” and while it’s cliché, man, is it true. In just four short years, the Class of 2019 has made the Velvet Ditch its home. The word “made” is an action verb, and while some could passively be accepted into the community, others had to fight and struggle to make Oxford and the University of Mississippi into a home that loves and respects all of us.
In our first few weeks on campus, as we searched for classrooms, got used to our roommates’ snoring habits and figured out which bars were 18+, we found ourselves in the midst of a controversy. In the wake of the Charleston shooting, student legislators proposed a bill to remove the Mississippi state flag from campus because of the racist symbolism of the Confederate battle flag. As Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks agreed to lower it, we realized that students did have a voice and we could create positive change.
And over the past four years, student leadership has been the most stable, consistent leadership as three different chancellors have led us. In 2016 when a student made a racist Facebook comment about lynching progressive activists, it was our student body that occupied the Lyceum and demanded a response. In 2018, when a donor posted a racist Facebook post, it was the students who rallied together and demanded change. And just this year, after months of careful research, student legislators unanimously passed a bill that, if upheld by the IHL, will remove a racist statue from the heart of our campus. Students have been the moral voice of our UM community and will continue to be. Students have made LOU our home, whether it likes it or not.
Within our LOU home, we found more personal communities. Some found IFC, NPHC or NPC to find our new brothers and sisters. Some found religious organizations that welcomed and loved us as we began to deconstruct our parents’ faith and reconstruct a new belief or worldview of our own. Some of us found community in our sports teams through the lows of NCAA sanctions and coaching discharges and the highs of Sugar Bowl and NCAA basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, track and field, and golf. Some found community on the Square, whether working retail or food services to pay the bills or having fun with friends at Code Pink, trivia nights or concerts. Some found community in a cause, working for philanthropies like RebelTHON, political organizations or cultural organizations as we discovered what was most important to each of us. And some of us may have even found our future community as we met partners, spouses or even our first children during these past four years.
The Class of 2019 has experienced massive change during these four short years, from new chancellors to a new arena, student section, dorms and maybe someday a completed student union. As Rebels in the broad sense of the word, we have been agents of that change as well. We became adults here, discovered ourselves and made lasting relationships. When we go out into the world, it will be hard to leave, but we will never truly leave Ole Miss because we have left our mark on it, just as it has left its mark on us.
Jacob Gambrell is a senior international studies from Chattanooga, TN.