Almost 15 months after the Associated Student Body Senate unanimously voted to relocate the Confederate monument at the University of Mississippi, Delta Psi chapter president Drew Leopard called for all fraternity and sorority leaders on campus to take a stance in support of relocation.
On June 4, Leopard posted a statement on social media calling for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees (IHL) to vote on the monument’s relocation in their upcoming meeting on June 18.
The statement called for all executive boards and all chapter presidents of the College Panhellenic (CPH), National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) and Interfraternity Council (IFC) to sign the statement and affirm their support for relocating the monument to the Confederate cemetery on campus.
“What happened to George Floyd and what’s happening right now with the protests shows that racism is still very prevalent in our country, and having a statue that stands for that in the middle of our campus is just not right,” Leopard said. “I am calling on my peers to be the leaders that they are in the Greek community.”
Joshua Mannery, president of the Associated Student Body (ASB), said he loved the statement and is proud of the Greek community for getting behind the movement to relocate the monument, even if it is “long overdue.”
“I appreciate how firm of a stance they are taking now because they have to make up for the fact that they weren’t there a year ago. I don’t hold it against them because they’re with us now,” Mannery said. “We have to acknowledge the efforts that ASB, BSU and other organizations have been making, but we can still provide the opportunity for other organizations to join the fight, too.”
In terms of why the sorority and fraternity councils waited to make a statement, IFC president Cole Barnhill, CPH president Shelby D’Amico and NPHC president Candace Bolden said they could not speak on the actions that their predecessors chose to take or not to take.
“All I can say is different leadership, different time,” Barnhill said. “We’re trying to acknowledge maybe some lacking on our part in previous years, and saying this is who we are today and this is who we are moving forward.”
Bolden said NPHC had been involved in the conversation about monument relocation before the ASB Senate vote last March, but she said uniting with CPH and IFC for this statement gives all three councils “a more unified front” as the Greek community on campus.
“Being a black woman has been a part of my identity since before birth, so stuff that I’m struggling with now that you see in the media is stuff that I’ve struggled with on campus,” she said. “I am very thankful, as a black woman in our community here at the University of Mississippi — and as a member of the BSU, and as a member of NPHC and as a member of ESTEEM — that we have support from our Greek brothers and sisters of different councils.”
If all council executive board members and chapter presidents sign, the statement will have 57 signatures. However, many presidents made it clear that they would have to seek approval from their corresponding national organizations, hold chapter-wide votes and meet with alumni before they would be able to sign Leopard’s original statement.
The three council presidents recognized the organization of the statement and certain language that mentioned alumni involvement to be potential barriers to presidents being able to sign, so they have revised the statement. It will now be sent solely by Barnhill, D’Amico and Bolden, with the remaining 54 signatures acting in support of council leadership.
“The goal in all of that was keeping the meaning of the statement the same and keeping the call to action to IHL the same, but we had to do it in a way that allowed all of our chapters to fully be able to support us,” Barnhill said. “We didn’t want anyone to not be able to sign because, for example, they hadn’t been able to get in touch with their national headquarters.”
For this reason, Barnhill, D’Amico and Bolden do not plan to send the statement on the original deadline that Leopard set for 9 a.m. CDT on June 8. Instead, they will wait until everyone who intends to sign has had time to attain the necessary approval to do so.
“We would rather send a letter with everyone’s signature who wants to sign versus a letter that only has half of the signatures, but the half who didn’t sign said they wanted to,” Barnhill said.
One criticism of Leopard’s initial statement was that only three of the six NPHC chapters on campus were specifically named. However, Bolden said they were all represented.
“With the National Pan-Hellenic Council, as you can see, most of the signatures were pulled from people who were executive members, and of course, they were calling out to chapters,” Bolden said. “With NPHC, our organizations are smaller, so sometimes we function in two or three roles.”
Thus, the presidents of Sigma Gamma Rho, Kappa Alpha Psi and Alpha Kappa Alpha were only listed under their NPHC executive board roles. The revised statement includes both their executive positions and their chapter affiliations.
Additionally, the new statement urges IHL to vote on the relocation “swiftly” instead of demanding that they vote on the matter in their upcoming meeting on June 18, as Leopard’s original statement requested.
Leopard said he had “full faith” in Barnhill, D’Amico and Bolden to revise his original statement “to something that was sign-able by everyone without compromising the message,” and he said he still urges all Greek members charged with signing to act swiftly.
“If you are a member of a chapter whose leadership is hesitant to sign this statement, make your voice heard,” he said. “Call on them to be the leader that you elected them to be. Call on them to take a stand against 172 years of racism at the University of Mississippi.”
Barnhill, D’Amico and Bolden said they had not heard from any chapter presidents who are not planning on signing the statement.