University of Mississippi responds to “offensive and disturbing” social media posts

Published 11:07 am Monday, June 8, 2020

The University of Mississippi sent out a letter in response to racially and politically charged social media posts made by incoming freshmen in recent weeks.

With protests all across the country and several in Oxford over the past 13 days, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Noel Wilkin and Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement Katrina Caldwell provided a joint statement on Friday.

“Our community continues to grapple with the pain and fear that comes from public displays of hate and violence, which is a vivid reminder of the unfortunate, private and often unrelenting hate and violence many African-Americans fear and experience,” the statement read.”In this moment, we have a responsibility to take seriously our commitment to look inward and evaluate the processes, aspects and responses of our institution to ensure that they convey the importance of the need for every person to feel welcome and included on our campus.”

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The University received reports of racist behavior in videos and social media posts from prospective students in recent weeks. Some of the posts included Nazi imagery such as swastikas, and others have included text or video usage of the n-word and other racial slurs.

“We find these offensive and disturbing,” the statement continued. “These abhorrent, ignorant and offensive acts have real costs and cause real harm to the creative environment necessary for learning, working and living on our campus. These acts threaten our inclusive climate, set back our efforts to make progress, lead people to associate these expressions with our entire university community and cause targeted groups to bear the weight of the fear and anger that follows these occurrences.”

Last week, the University hosted a virtual event called the “Stronger Together Dialogue Series,” which was created as a safe space for healing, allyship and community action following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

The discussion was hosted by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, University Counseling Center, Black Student Union and Associated Student Body.

The University was set to give a statement that leaned into their public education mission, but following the event and the discussions that were had, officials chose to go in a different direction with their statement.

“We quickly realized how inadequate that message would have been, given the evidence and our recognition that the old strategies and solutions are not working,” the statement continued. “We found ourselves trying to reinforce our shared values of diversity and inclusiveness. Instead, we are re-evaluating and redesigning our policies and practices to ensure they clearly communicate that it is not acceptable to express yourself in ways that marginalize others and make them feel unsafe, especially when people expressing those views clearly do not share the values that are fundamental to a civil, equitable and safe society.”

The University is planning to “pursue more robust tools” to address the remarks made in the social media posts by the prospective students. Along with investigating and taking “appropriate action,” the statement listed other actions they have taken:

  • Contacting other SEC institutions that are experiencing similar incidents to work collectively to consider alternative responses to prospective students’ hateful and offensive speech and behavior
  • Review their admission and judicial review policies and protocols to determine if there are more direct actions that can be taken with prospective students
  • Work with outside consultants to ensure that the University is using all available tools to combat the issues.
  • Reconsider their education-only approach to disruptive, hateful behavior
  • Will continue to listen to the members of the community to understand their experiences and adjust their strategies with the goal of interrupting the cycles of hate.

“Acts of violence against others because of their identity do not happen by accident,” The statement concluded. “They are fueled by perspectives and hatred that festers within our society. When hate shows up, we need to act; when violence shows up, it is too late.”