A room filled with students and faculty members at the University of Mississippi — a.k.a. Ole Miss — erupted in applause as it was announced on Tuesday that the student body Senate had voted 47 to 0 in favor of moving a longstanding Confederate statue from the main campus to a less central Confederate cemetery.
The statue of a Confederate soldier was donated by the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1906, but has recently been the subject of heated debate. Many students felt it was offensive and symbolized a racist American South.
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“Oh, the statue sucks,” student Serenity Griffin told CBS affiliate WREG before the vote. “I don’t even know why anybody would have that up here. That’s like, so insulting.”
At the time, Griffin didn’t even feel that moving the statue was the answer. “We don’t want it moved. We want it gone, period,” she said. “Why would you move it? What’s the point in moving it if it’s still going to be there? Now, we’re just going to protest it over there.”
BREAKING: The room bursts into applause as the resolution passes in favor 47-0 to move the Confederate statue pic.twitter.com/cG6awcv0du
— Rebecca Butcher (@Local24Rebecca) March 6, 2019
But others felt that the statue is historically significant and should stay. “As a veteran, I have strong feelings about soldiers, regardless of what side they were on,” student Danny Nichols told the outlet. “Soldiers that fight and die for a cause, which this represents, deserved to be honored.”
The debate escalated to the point of protest earlier this year on both sides of the argument. Just two weeks ago, two pro-Confederate groups marched to the monument brandishing Confederate symbols and chanting, according to Biloxi’s WLOX. The very next day, Students Against Social Injustice protested to have the statue removed.
Last Thursday, a resolution to move the statue was passed by the Associated Student Body (ASB), according to the Mississippi Clarion Ledger.
“Confederate ideology directly violates the tenets of the university creed that supports fairness, civility and respect for the dignity of each person,” the group argued.
ASB passed the resolution to relocate the Confederate statue to the Confederate cemetery in rules committee last night. The resolution will come to the Senate floor on Tuesday, where senators will debate the bill. pic.twitter.com/37y8CRIf1k
— The Daily Mississippian (@thedm_news) March 1, 2019
On Tuesday evening, the Senate met to vote on the divisive matter — and by 8 p.m., they’d come to a unanimous decision to relocate it. Rod Guajardo, Ole Miss’s associate director of strategic communications, released a statement directly following the decision. It read:
“As an institution of higher learning, we rely on a model of shared governance, of which the Associated Student Body is one constituency. We commend the ASB Senate for using the democratic process to engage in a debate of topics that impact our community. This student-led resolution will now be shared with ASB leadership for final sign-off before being circulated for acknowledgment by the appropriate University of Mississippi administrators.”
In addition to the landslide vote, more than 110 out of 160 comments submitted ahead of time were in support of moving the statue, according to Fox 13 in Memphis.
“The Confederate statue represents history hidden in plain sight,” student Katie Dames, chair for the Committee of Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement for ASB Senate, said to the Clarion Ledger after the vote. “We accept the values of Confederacy each time we walk past it with ambivalence. We can do so much better as a university, and the passage of this resolution proves that.”
Arielle Hudson, vice president of the University of Mississippi Black Student Union, said the vote means “the student body cares about every student on this campus, that we respect every student on this campus and that we want every student on this campus to feel safe and welcomed.”
Now that the students have voted to move the statue, the next step is for the chancellor to sign off on it. It’s not known how much the relocation will cost, so some students have reportedly suggested starting a fundraising campaign and even reaching out to Ole Miss alumni for donations.
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