Sanitizing The Ole Miss Campus
By Gail Jarvis
August 11, 2014
The ongoing campus cleansing and tradition-trashing at the University of Mississippi is a classic example of what is wrong with many of today’s colleges. The administration at the University of Mississippi, “Ole Miss”, is submissively following practices that have been tried at other institutions, practices that failed to produce the results hoped for. Over the years, an emphasis on campus social engineering designed to conciliate minorities, has created a vast racial bureaucracy at colleges around the nation. This bureaucracy continues to grow, but racial complaints rarely lessen. In many cases, they have gotten worse.
This is the scenario at these colleges. – Even colleges located outside of the South. Once campus activists have targeted an item for removal, it is described as a symbol of “racism, hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.” The University administration is too intimidated to question the validity or seriousness of such complaints, so it usually capitulates and removes the item. And each time the activists succeed in getting an item removed, a new one is targeted for removal.
Many students have come to believe that agitating for “change” is an essential part of collegiate years, possibly more important than getting an education. At Ole Miss, campus agitators are usually joined by a clique of faculty members. Evidently, teaching classes doesn’t seem to give faculty cliques as much satisfaction as helping to implement what they perceive as social justice. This combination of militant professors and activist students has helped insure the success of many symbol-removal campaigns. At Ole Miss, the administration continues to surrender to every removal demand, while the alumni and student body remain cravenly silent.
So many symbols of the South have been removed from Ole Miss that it has been jokingly suggested that any magnolias found on the campus should be removed. ( Magnolias are indeed associated with the old South in popular culture.) Although this suggestion was made in jest, its point should not be dismissed out of hand. In the purging of symbols at Ole Miss, what a thing symbolizes is more important than what it is. Of course, it may symbolize one thing to some and something completely different to others. However, the decision to remove a symbol depends upon which group’s opinions are in fashion, and for almost three decades a minority of campus protestors have essentially controlled the University’s decisions.
Quite a few campus traditions have been scrapped over the years. Some of the most newsworthy being forbidding the University’s band from playing “Dixie” at football games, not allowing students to sing “From Dixie With Love” ; preventing students from waving small replicas of Confederate flags, and replacing the schools’ popular mascot “Colonel Reb” with a bland and irrelevant “Rebel Black Bear.” Consequently, in the name of political correctness, one of college football’s most colorful mascots was forced out in favor of what is probably the dullest mascot in the nation.
The Ole Miss Chancellor, Dan Jones, justified the elimination of these traditions by claiming that students were “advocating a revival of segregation.” That might be the establishment’s clichéd explanation, but students were celebrating in ways that involved long-held traditions. I suspect that these students, as well as many alumni, feel that campus cleansing has gone too far. Chancellor Jones, unfortunately, has plans for greatly expanding his cultural cleansing, which he revealed during festivities at the University’s honoring of LGBTQ month. The Chancellor’s plans include creating the position of Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion and replacing plaques on campus historical sites with language that places these sites in a “modern context.” – I think we can guess what “placing these historical sites in a modern context” will involve.
Chancellor Jones has already renamed a campus street that had the word “Confederate”in its title, and there is even talk about phasing out the schools’ famous nickname “Ole Miss.” The administration has vacillated on this change, fearing a backlash, but the pressure to drop the nickname continues. I suspect that when complaints about the other changes have lessened, the drive to remove the school’s nickname will be revived. Predictably, this is what usually happens. The reason put forth for this change (And I’m not making this up) is that some slaves referred to the plantation owner’s wife as “ole miss.” If the cleansing campaign has sunk to this level in its search for hidden meanings, we can understand why some believe that magnolia plants will be pulled up by their roots and discarded in trash heaps located outside of the campus.
Dan Jones’ plan to hire a Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion is a foolish mistake. It is counterproductive because it will encourage campus agitators to dredge up even more complaints, demanding the removal of traditions that they only perceive as insensitive. The University already has a Chief Diversity Officer as well as a Sensitivity and Respect Committee and an Incident Review Committee. (Incredibly, Chancellor Jones also plans a Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagements.) Ole Miss implemented an African-American Studies Program several years ago, and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation is located on the University’s campus.
Diversity officers and sensitivity committees create a campus life radically different from life in the “real world.” Is this desirable? Shouldn’t college years help prepare students to cope with the world outside of the walls of academia? – When minority students leave this sheltered campus environment and enter the “real world”, their every whim will not be catered to. So Ole Miss should stop trying to make sure that nothing unpleasant ever enters their field of vision or range of hearing.
The Leftist media heaps praise on the University of Mississippi’s administration each time it trashes one of the school’s traditions, – This is considered “progress” because these honored traditions are associated with Southern heritage. To the Leftist media, Southern heritage is composed of only two factors : slavery and racism. Nothing else. They believe that Southern heritage must be utterly eliminated in order to eradicate “racism, hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.”
But when cultural cleansing goes too far, it not only begins to lose support, but it can also cause harmful side effects. Still, neither Ole Miss trustees nor alumni question the reasonableness of Chancellor Jones inordinate removal actions. Many must surely be concerned about his exuberant overreach. And it is indeed surprising that trustees and alumni never ask how much cultural cleansing must take place before the campus is adequately “sanitized.”
As tuition for major colleges is now out of reach for many Mississippi families, you would think Ole Miss might be a little more judicious when creating additional positions to promote diversity: positions paying high six figure salaries. Already, many families are considering smaller and less expensive colleges for their children. Trade and vocational schools are also becoming a preferred option. Shouldn’t the University of Mississippi exhibit some concern for the finances of Mississippi families?
Black students represent roughly 15% of the Ole Miss student body, and many are surely attending the University simply to get a good education. These black students realize that the institution makes a special effort to not only to welcome minority students but also grants them ongoing concessions from admission to graduation. These students have no problems adapting to campus traditions. – If other black students would ease up on their adversarial attitudes, they will find themselves enjoying campus life. – Even football games where the band plays ”Dixie” and Colonel Reb brightens the sidelines.