Ole Miss Makes Big Changes to Its Campus

By Julissa Catalan

The University of Mississippi has announced plans to diversify its campus, aiming to rid it of its plantation-era history.

“Our unique history regarding race provides not only a larger responsibility for providing leadership on race issues, but also a large opportunityone we should and will embrace,” Chancellor Dan Jones wrote in a report that was developed with the help of a university committee and external consultants.

The report indicates that Confederate Drive, a short street near Fraternity Row, will be renamed Chapel Lane.

To tell the history of slavery and segregation in the South, the report recommends that explanatory plaques be added to historic symbols such as a statue of a Confederate soldier that stands near the administrative building.

The chancellor’s report also recommends creating a new job of Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion.

Though the university will continue to use the nickname “Ole Miss” for athletics, the report is pushing for the school to go by its formal name of the University of Mississippi when it comes to academics. The phrase “Ole Miss” became associated with the school when it won an 1897 name-the-yearbook contest, but the phrase also has darker connotations: It is what slaves called a plantation owner’s wife.

“Our longstanding nickname is beloved by the vast majority of our students and alumni,” Jones wrote. “A few, especially among our faculty, are uncomfortable using the term ‘Ole Miss’some at all, and some within the academic context. Some object simply because it is a nickname and prefer the more formal name, and some express concern about its origin, believing that the term is racist.”

The report also states that another campus street will be renamed as wellat the request of athletes and alumni.

Coliseum Drive (near the basketball arena) will now be called Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins Driveafter a Black football player who was left a quadriplegic after a 1989 injury. Mullins died in 1991.

As of last academic year, the University of Mississippi had 22,286 students on its six campuses. Mississippi has a Black population of 37.4 percent, while UM’s Black enrollment stands at 15.4 percent. The school’s overall underrepresented-student enrollment was 24.8 percent.

Chancellor Jones’ report comes after a long-standing history of racism at Ole Miss.

The school has struggled with racial discrimination ever since James Merediththe first Black student to attend the universityenrolled in 1962. His admission to the school led to violence on the Oxford campus and the arrival of 500 U.S. marshals, ordered to the school by then-U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Despite the attempts of the state’s governor to prevent the integration of Ole Miss, Meredith was allowed on campus less than a week later.

The flag flying over Mississippi at the time of Meredith’s admission to the universitythe same one flying over the state since 1894contains the Confederate battle flag in the canton. The emblem of the pro-slavery South during the Civil War reappeared during the civil-rights movement as a symbol against desegregation. It also appeared in the Georgia state flag from 19562001.

Last October, the university launched an investigation into heckling that included anti-gay slurs at an on-campus performance of The Laramie Project, a play based on the robbery and murder of Matthew Shepard, who was targeted because of his sexual orientation.

Just this past February, a noose and the aforementioned flag were found draped on a Meredith statue. The FBI was called to join the investigation once it was labeled a hate crime. A national fraternity suspended its University of Mississippi chapter after learning three members were responsible for the incident. Witnesses told authorities that the suspects yelled racial slurs as they defaced the statue.

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