Students Against Social Injustice (SASI) recently met with university administrative officials to discuss removing the Confederate statue and creating a hate speech policy on campus, but SASI members said administrators “beat around the bush” during the meeting.
Quay Williams, the president of SASI, said the meeting went “like he thought it would,” but he did say some progress was made.
The meeting was a follow-up to the group’s protest of the Confederate statue in the Circle in November, where the group used the opportunity to submit a list of demands to the administration.
“There wasn’t any progress at all in convincing the administration of taking the steps forward to take down the statue,” Williams said. “But there was progress in the sense of we basically have what the administration said. And now, it’s time to put it out there and let everyone know this is how (the university) feels about students.”
Williams said the statue should be removed or relocated because it is a monument honoring Confederate soldiers.
“I feel like with something like that being on a college campus, where students have multiple backgrounds coming in, that’s not a good image,” he said. “So, it’s the same as the swastika being displayed, and especially with black students like me, that’s something that affects us the most.”
Williams said he isn’t advocating for a “limit to speech,” but he does want there to be “consequences” for people who use racial, religious or sexual slurs.
Rod Guajardo, a university spokesperson, said the meeting was a chance to “build relationships” and for the administration to hear SASI’s concerns.
“Hate speech laws have regularly been ruled by the courts to be unconstitutional infringements on freedom of speech under the First Amendment, and the University of Mississippi is committed to freedom of speech,” Guajardo said in an email to The Daily Mississippian. “University leaders are open to continuing their dialogue with students involved in SASI.”
Guajardo did not address questions regarding whether or not the university would support relocating or removing the Confederate statue.
Williams said, ultimately, if the statue cannot be removed, he would support relocating the statue to a different place so that it would no longer be in the middle of campus.
“It has to be a more suitable place to relocate it, and that place would be the Confederate Cemetery, which is most definitely a better fit for the statute than being placed on college campus,” he said.
Cam Calisch, a junior anthropology major, said she thinks the university is walking down “a pretty thin line.”
“Enrollment is down, and black student enrollment is down,” Calisch said. “If the university has any desire to change that, they need to become more inclusive.”