I believe in respect for the dignity of each person
I believe in fairness and civility
I believe in personal and professional integrity
I believe in academic honesty
I believe in academic freedom
I believe in good stewardship of our resources
I pledge to uphold these values and encourage others to follow my example.
from the University of Mississippi creed
The entry of the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the probe surrounding an attack on a landmark statue of civil rights hero James Meredith on the University of Mississippi campus officially raises the incident to a possible hate crime, a federal offense.
The Meredith statue, commemorating the Kosciusko native’s violence-stained admission as the university’s first black student in 1962, was placed in the heart of the Oxford campus in 2002 to symbolize Ole Miss’ accessibility to all students and its determination to shed vestiges of a segregationist past.
That effort has substantially but not fully succeeded.
Criminals were identified by an eyewitness to the early morning defiling of the statue as two men yelling racial slurs as they draped a former Georgia state flag bearing a Confederate emblem and hangman’s noose on the statue, then fled the scene. The witness had arrived on the campus to begin contract work when he saw the incident at about 6:30 a.m. He immediately notified university police, who responded and began the investigation.
Identifying, arresting, prosecuting and sentencing the perpetrators of the attack on the statue is essential because momentum must be sustained moving forward in race relations on a campus that has dedicated itself to mutual respect and free academic inquiry.
A $25,000 reward has been provided by the university’s alumni association to help bring the criminals to justice.
Danny Blanton, the university’s official spokesman, said no assumptions have been made that the vandals were university students, and added the search and investigation reach far beyond the campus.
Blanton said several important student organizations, including the Panhellenic Council, representing sororities, and the Interfraternity Council, representing fraternities, are cooperating fully in seeking identity and arrests.
Slurring iconic images of a university and other institutions is not the work of pranksters. It is criminal.
Ole Miss alumni and friends should exert every effort personally to identify and prosecute those guilty of the attack on the statue because it was, in fact, also an attack on the university.