Confederate Memorial plaque soon to be placed

Posted on Sep 20 2016 - 8:01am by Clara Turnage

A new plaque for the Confederate Memorial in the Circle will be placed soon, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

The text for the plaque was announced in a June 10 letter to the campus, after many campus groups contested the original wording, which was installed in March.

The plaque on the Confederate Memorial is part of an effort of the university administration to contextualize historic, often-divisive sites.

Full plaque text:

As Confederate veterans were dying in increasing numbers, memorial associations across the South built monuments in their memory. These monuments were often used to promote an ideology known as the “Lost Cause,” which claimed that the Confederacy had been established to defend states’ rights and that slavery was not the principal cause of the Civil War. Residents of Oxford and Lafayette County dedicated this statue, approved by the university, in 1906. Although the monument was created to honor the sacrifice of local Confederate soldiers, it must also remind us that the defeat of the Confederacy actually meant freedom for millions of people. On the evening of September 30, 1962, this statue was a rallying point for opponents of integration.

This historic statue is a reminder of the university’s divisive past. Today, the University of Mississippi draws from that past a continuing commitment to open its hallowed halls to all who seek truth, knowledge, and wisdom

Vitter established the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context in March to determine which buildings or monuments on campus need explanation.

Vitter said the committee will announce which sites they have chosen for contextualization in the coming weeks. At this time, Vitter said he did not know how many sites the committee will recommend.

“Part of the contextualization effort is to acknowledge our past and move to the future,” Vitter said. “I’m not interested in being in this political debate that pits people on one side against people in the other. I’m interested in having dialogue and moving forward, not making statements for the sake of making statements.”

Things that will not change, however, are the name Ole Miss and the term Rebels. The sixth proposal on a list of recommendations from consultants hired to assess the university’s environment on race-related issues released on Aug. 1, 2014 suggested that the university “consider the implications of calling itself ‘Ole Miss’ in various contexts.”

“I put to bed recommendation No. 6 of that diversity plan and assured people that we are Ole Miss Rebels,” Vitter said. “Sharon and I are proud to be Ole Miss Rebels. It’s a positive term of endearment.”

In the action plan released in response to those recommendations, former Chancellor Dan Jones said the name Ole Miss was closely tied to athletics and would not be changed. Concerns that the name would be removed persisted, however.

“Everyone knows Rebels obviously came from the Confederacy, but we are not those Rebels now,” Vitter said. “We are Rebels with a cause; we are leaders; we are entrepreneurs; we push the envelope; we break the status quo; we are leaders. But with that comes the requirement that we always have to be conscious and careful to use images and symbols that are consistent with that positive brand.”

The first recommendation from this diversity plan was to create a vice chancellor level position for diversity and inclusion. This process was started in 2014, but after narrowing the applicants down to eight possible candidates, the university did not hire anyone.

Vitter restarted this process in February 2016. The final of four candidate interviews for the position will be held at 4:15 p.m. today in the Inn at Ole Miss.  

“I think this will lead – a very positive way – to our university showing itself again to be a leader in recognizing our past because we are moving forward as role models for the future. We have a lot to be proud of at Ole Miss.”