In an early-morning ceremony in front of the Lyceum, the University Police Department lowered and furled the flag of the state of Mississippi today, effectively removing it altogether from the Ole Miss campus. This decision comes after the Associated Student Body Senate, the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Student Council, and the Staff Council all voted on resolutions recommending that the university leadership remove the flag. The controversy surrounding the Mississippi flag stems from its design, which incorporates Confederate imagery that many believe is inconsistent with the values or priorities of the University of Mississippi.
Many disagree though, with the discussion over the flag sparking protests and counter protests, including demonstrations from groups aligned with the Ku Klux Klan. Where some see a symbol of institutionalized racism and violent conflict, others see a cherished symbol of Southern identity. In addition, others see the Confederate flag as an appropriate symbol for Ole Miss itself, with battle flags being waved by fans at Ole Miss football games as recently as the early 1990's.
It is important to note that this gesture by the Ole Miss community is entirely a symbolic one. It puts little-to-no pressure on anyone outside of Ole Miss to lower their Mississippi flags, nor does it bind the state's legislature to act in any way on the issue. It is also a move that should have no meaningful impact on Ole Miss, regardless of the legality of this decision. Ole Miss is not required by state law to fly the flag, but even if it were, its refusal to do so would see the university likely face no real repercussions from state leadership. But, in a debate over the meaning and weight of symbols, symbolic gestures carry a lot of clout; whether or not you agree with this decision, you must admit that it is a significant one.