The University of Mississippi has long been known to fans of its sports teams and to students by the nickname “Ole Miss.” But a new announcement from the school’s leadership indicates that they will try and phase out use of the nickname because some fear it calls to mind the state’s history of racism.
“UM’s longstanding nickname is beloved by the vast majority of its students and alumni,” reads an official statement from the school that was released Friday, according to the National Review.
“But a few, especially some university faculty, are uncomfortable with it. Some don’t want it used at all and some simply don’t want it used within the academic context,” the statement reads.
The statement included a six-part plan for the school to help improve race relations on campus and encourage a more “appropriate” use of the nickname.
The plan, according to Slate, will create a new vice chancellor’s position for diversity and inclusion. It will develop “a set of standards for diversity and engagement” and endeavor to deal “squarely” with issues of race. The plan also includes proposals to change the names of some buildings on campus to draw attention to black figures in Mississippi history and change the name of Confederate Drive on campus to Chapel Lane.
The plan came as the result of a number of reports that found black students on the campus still experience racism, particularly in the school’s Greek system.
“A number of students believe that the traditional fraternities and sororities serve as attractors, incubators, and protectors for students wedded to the symbols and beliefs of the South’s racist past,” one report said. “With few exceptions, the majority of the group, white and black, nodded in agreement. The African American students shared examples of indignities they have been subject to or witness of that involved the fraternities and sororities.
“Every black student in the room said that they had been called the ‘N-word’ at least once on campus,” the report continued. “From rejection of people of color into the organizations, chanting ‘The South will rise again’ at sporting events, to hurling racist and sexual epithets at innocent passersby, the Greeks are viewed as a major problem.”
The school forced the local chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity to close earlier this year after members of the fraternity were accused of hanging a noose on the neck of the the campus’ James Meredith statue.
Meredith was the first black student at the school after it was integrated in 1962 following numerous court battles.
A subsequent investigation into the fraternity’s chapter found it to be breaking numerous rules, according to CBS News.
Although the school’s official statement did not highlight such incidents, Chancellor Dan Jones said the school was going to “continue a dialogue on race.”
“Our unique history regarding race provides not only a larger responsibility for providing leadership on race issues, but also a large opportunity — one we should and will embrace,” Jones said.
Doing that means the “Ole Miss” name will largely be kept out of the school’s academic setting.
The statement said that “University of Mississippi” and the “Ole Miss” name “will be used in appropriate contexts going forward, with particular emphasis going to ‘Ole Miss’ in athletics and as a representation of the university’s spirit.”