Ole Miss alumnus Ed Meek, namesake of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, drew widespread criticism after posting commentary and a pair of photos to Facebook on Wednesday night. Meek, a prominent donor and former professor, served as the university’s assistant vice chancellor for public relations and marketing for 37 years, beginning in 1964.
“Enough, Oxford and Ole Miss leaders, get on top of this before it is too late,” Meek wrote in his Wednesday night post, which was attached to two images of black women he claimed were visiting the Square on Saturday night. Critics of the post accused Meek of promoting racist and sexist beliefs.
The Daily Mississippian received a column from one of the women in the photographs, Mahoghany Jordan. In her column, Mahoghany shares her thoughts on being the centerpiece of Meek’s post.
Within four hours of its posting, Meek’s post had garnered more than 500 comments and 600 shares. Meek eventually deleted his post after Facebook users continued to share the post and express their opinions in comments. One of those comments came from Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter’s Facebook account.
Vitter used his personal Facebook account to responded to Meek’s post, condemning its “racial overtone” and suggesting Meek delete the post.
“I must condemn the tone and content of Ed Meek’s post from earlier today. The photos in his (Meek’s) post suggest an unjustified racial overtone that is highly offensive. Ed, I urge you to withdraw your comment and apologize to anyone offended,” Vitter wrote.
Meek shared an apology for his controversial post on Facebook just before 8:00 p.m. Wednesday night, but he deleted the apology shortly afterward.
“I apologize to those offended by my post,” Meek wrote in the now-deleted apology. “My intent was to point out we have a problem in The Grove and on the Oxford Square.”
When Meek deleted his original post and apology, Vitter again shared his response on his own page. Meek commented there just after 11 p.m., apologizing again for posting photos of the two women.
“I have done as you requested, Chancellor,” Meek wrote. “I am sorry I posted those pictures but there was no intent to imply a racial issue. My intent was to highlight we do have a problem in The Grove and on the Oxford Square.”
When The Daily Mississippian called Meek’s cellphone for a response, Meek hung up the phone.
Over the course of Wednesday night, various campus groups and Ole Miss alumni echoed Vitter’s condemnation of the sentiments expressed in Meek’s post. The University of Mississippi Black Student Union, Associated Student Body and Meek School of Journalism and New Media all released statements in opposition to the tone of Meek’s post. UM Communications referred to Vitter’s comment in its response to the incident.
Meek School leadership wrote a statement in response to Meek’s post, calling it “highly offensive.”
“Earlier today, the donor whose name is on our school, Ed Meek, made a post on his personal Facebook account that we find highly offensive. This post is in no way associated with or represents our school, our students or our faculty. We are embarrassed by his actions,” the statement reads.
Meek School Dean Will Norton and Assistant Deans Patricia Thompson, Debora Wenger, Scott Fiene and Jennifer Simmons signed the statement. Thompson is assistant dean for student media and faculty adviser for The Daily Mississippian. The Student Media Center is an independent department within the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.
The Black Student Union’s statement also condemned Meek’s comments. The BSU wrote that “(Meek’s) statement has clear racial undertones that must be addressed.”
“The comments made by the namesake of the journalism program are not only sexist but also racially discriminatory,” the BSU’s statement reads. “These comments perpetuate the racist stigma that this university often carries and affects the retention and recruitment of African American students as well as underrepresented populations on this campus.”
Associated Student Body President Elam Miller released a statement just before 10:00 p.m. Wednesday in which he cited the UM Creed when denouncing Meek’s comments. He said the ASB “strongly denounces all actions that express prejudices towards any members of our community.”
“The recent comments posted on social media by UM alumnus and donor Ed Meek reflect both racism and sexism towards members of our community,” Miller said. “The racial undertones of the post are not representative of what we believe, stand for, or tolerate as a student body. We condemn such derogatory speech and objectification of valued individuals of the LOU Community.”
A petition titled “Remove Ed Meek’s Name From the Ole Miss School of Journalism,” created by senior public policy and political science major Raven Francomano, had garnered more than 620 signatures as of 10:55 p.m. Wednesday.
“I felt that everything we have worked for as a student body to promote unity, inclusivity, and racial reconciliation has been hindered — and will continue to be — as long as this type of dialogue is dismissed without repercussion,” Francomano said.
Sam Cox, a senior integrated marketing and communications major and president of Rebels Against Sexual Assault, also voiced his concerns with Meek’s comments on Wednesday night. He said RASA does not condone any of the sentiments contained in Meek’s post.
“The pictures (Meek) took without (the women’s) consent, that’s completely inappropriate that should never be posted on social media,” Cox said. “No matter what you wear, it doesn’t imply anything about your consent to give sexual acts or your value as a person.”
Just after 9 p.m. on Wednesday night, the University of Mississippi’s first black ASB president, Nicholas “Nic” Lott, voiced support for Meek’s character and wrote that Meek’s post was made out of concern.
“Folks, I spoke with my friend Ed Meek an hour ago. I’ve known Ed since my days at Ole Miss. Ed has helped a lot of people throughout his career, including myself. Those pictures should not have been posted, but it doesn’t make him a racist,” Lott’s post reads. “He loves Oxford and he loves Ole Miss. He posted several people, white and black, from this weekend’s incidents. I believe he is just concerned about what took place.”
The Meek School’s “Guidelines for use of Social Media” encourage Meek School faculty to “be authentic” and to “take the high ground” whenever possible.
“Faculty should always think before they post, be civil to others and their opinions and not post personal information about others unless they have their explicit permission,” the guidelines dictate.