Ole Miss students vote yes on mascot initiative

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Students at the University of Mississippi on Tuesday voted by nearly a 3-1 margin for a referendum that would give students a lead role in creating a new on-field mascot.
The vote was 2,510 for the initiative and 856 against.
Colonel Rebel, a costumed caricature of a Southern gentleman, was removed from the sidelines in 2003 by school administrators because some see vestiges of a plantation society depicted with the mascot. The university continues to license some merchandise with the Colonel Reb logo to protect its trademark.
“This vote means that the students are now taking charge of being able to basically create their new mascot,” said Koriann Moore of Oxford, who drafted the referendum as an Associated Student Body senator.
Chancellor Dan Jones has said the mascot initiative would not change school colors or nicknames.
“Our students think of themselves as ‘Ole Miss Rebels.’ They are today’s Ole Miss Rebels, and they want a new on-field mascot that represents their spirit and energy,” he said. “They will lead the effort to create a mascot that they think will improve school spirit and the game-day experience for themselves and others.”
Sparky Reardon, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students, is proud of the students for voting.
“A mascot’s role is to unite fans, and school spirit is a student issue,” he said. “I am proud of our student leaders for initiating this effort and allowing all students a chance to have a vote in this process.”
The ASB will appoint a Student Mascot Committee, which will develop and propose a new mascot. ASB President Artair Rogers said he hopes to present a plan to the ASB Senate and to the chancellor next week.
Other Ole Miss constituents, such as alumni, fans and friends, also will be invited to participate.
“I would like for those who are disappointed in this to work with us and put that energy that they have for Colonel Reb, that passion for tradition, and make those values part of this new mascot,” Moore said.
Elaine Stefanou of Darnestown, Md., was one of those disappointed students.
“He’s still going to be the face of Ole Miss regardless of what they do,” she asserted. Given no option to voice support for the old mascot, she struggled with her vote.
“It’s hard,” she said. “If you say no, the students won’t have any voice.”
Cody King from Cartersville, Ga., was one of several students who took turns throughout the day distributing “Colonel Rebel is my mascot” stickers and encouraging “no” votes.
“Chancellor Jones said if the students vote no, he wouldn’t go forward with (a new mascot),” King said.
Rogers said during the vote that such a position was not a safe bet.
“I think voting no is us students telling the administration we don’t want to be part of the process,” he said. “Voting no doesn’t mean we won’t ever have a new mascot.”
Marcus McGrath, a graduate student from Atlanta, voted yes but didn’t expect Tuesday’s election to put the contention to rest.
“You never know if there ever will be a consensus,” he said.
One student chided both sides for making the issue such a focus. David McDowell of New Orleans stood in front of the Union holding a homemade poster with graphic photos of war, famine and the Haitian earthquake’s destruction juxtaposed against Colonel Reb’s familiar image.
“Get Your Priorities Straight,” the poster stated.
“I just don’t quite understand why so many people finally get riled up about a cause as trivial as this one,” he said. “It doesn’t compute in terms of what true values are.”

Contact Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

THE BALLOT:
Because Ole Miss has not had an “on-field” mascot for almost seven years;
Because we are not revisiting the 2003 decision to remove the former mascot, Colonel Reb;
Because school spirit is a student issue, and the University administration has indicated that it would support a student-led effort to develop and propose a new “on-field” mascot for the Ole Miss Rebels;
Because the ASB Senate would like to know if the student body would support a student-led effort to develop and propose a NEW on-field” mascot;
Please indicate below whether you support such an effort by checking the appropriate box below:
Yes, I do support a student-led effort to develop and propose a NEW “on-field” mascot to represent the OLE MISS REBELS.
No, I do not support a student-led effort to develop and propose a NEW “on-field” mascot to represent the OLE MISS REBELS.