The Associated Student Body Senate recommended that the university relocate the Confederate monument from the Circle to the Confederate cemetery. On Tuesday night, the ASB senate approved the resolution with a unanimous roll call vote, 47-0.
The vote comes after student leaders and other campus groups have met for months to determine if the university has the power to relocate the statue and how best to implement legislation to reach their goal.
The monument, which was erected in 1906, has been the focal point of the university’s ongoing debates about Confederate symbolism on campus for years. In the past 10 days, public scrutiny of the statue’s prominence has intensified. Three campus demonstrations in support of removing the statue and one highly publicized protest in opposition to its removal occurred on campus last week. However, nearly a week of protest was overshadowed in just 63 seconds by eight Ole Miss men’s basketball players kneeling during the national anthem. The authors of the ASB resolution released a draft days after the basketball team’s on-court demonstration.
One week ago, the resolution was shared by ASB’s committee for inclusion and cross-cultural engagement, where it originated. Two days later, the ASB Rules Committee approved the legislation for Tuesday night’s debate.
The university’s Graduate Student Council Senate voted Monday night to pass a separate resolution to relocate the monument. The GSC’s resolution was almost identical to the proposed ASB resolution, which was done “on purpose,” according to GSC Sen. Tom Porter, one of the authors of the resolution.
The Senate of the Faculty of the University of Mississippi is expecting to undergo the same process in the coming days. Faculty senate chair Brice Noonan said that the faculty senate is not considering a resolution yet because one has not been proposed, but he expects that someone will propose a resolution similar to the Graduate Student Council’s at their regularly scheduled Tuesday night meeting or later this week.
If the ASB resolution passes, it will travel to ASB Vice President Walker Abel’s desk. If signed, it will then move to ASB President Elam Miller, who will either decide to veto the resolution or sign it for approval.
If Miller approves the resolution, it will be handed off to the university administration.
Before it is delivered to Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks, the resolution must first be signed by Dean of Students Melissa Sutton Noss and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brandi Hephner LaBanc.
ASB Sen. Katie Dames researched and wrote the resolution alongside Sen. Jarvis Benson, Sen. Charlotte Armistead, Sen. Arielle Hudson, Leah Davis, Tyler Yarbrough, John Chappell and Sen. Dalton Hull. Some of these students met for months in advance of the protests to research and write the resolution.
Senators from the committee for inclusion and cross-cultural engagement met with local historians and administrators last month to discuss options for removing the university’s Confederate monument from the Circle, and last Tuesday night, ASB senators approved a draft of a resolution in committee that would call on university administration to relocate the monument.
Even though campus government groups have passed resolutions calling for the statue to be relocated, it is unclear if these groups have the authority to relocate the statue. Mississippi law allows a “governing body” to decide the relocation of the monument, but it is unclear what governing body that is.
The monument was erected in the Circle in 1906 and dedicated by residents of Lafayette County. In 1962, students rioting against James Meredith’s integration of the university gathered at the base of the same monument.
Two years ago, then-Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter released a letter releasing the details of the plaque that would be placed in front of the monument “to recognize our history in a balanced and contextual manner.” The Mississippi Sons of Confederate Veterans sued the University of Mississippi to remove the plaque. The group lost the suit in a state appeals court.
“The placement of this plaque puts the statue into proper context and affirms, as in our UM Creed, our respect for the dignity of each person,” Vitter said in the letter.
In November 2018, Students Against Social Injustice protested Confederate monuments in Oxford by marching in the Circle. Last month, two neo-Confederate groups, Confederate 901 and the Hiwaymen, rallied in favor of keeping the monuments on Feb. 23.
Before the neo-Confederate groups arrived, SASI and minority student organizations like the Black Student Union held two other demonstrations calling for the removal of the monument. Counterprotesters met the neo-Confederate groups on the Feb. 23 protests.
The same day, eight Ole Miss Basketball players knelt during the national anthem, overshadowing the hours of protest from the weekend.
When ASB voted in 2015 to remove the state flag from the university, the process from final vote to removal took five days. Removing the flag and relocating the statue are two different processes, but the circumstances are similar.
Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks oversaw the transition in 2015. Three-and-a-half years later, Sparks sits in a similar situation.