A racially suggestive Facebook post by a University of Mississippi donor has prompted faculty and students to lead an effort to rename their journalism school after Civil Rights advocate, journalist, and educator Ida B. Wells-Barnett, the Chicago Tribune reported.
According to the news outlet Ed Meek, one of the institution’s biggest donors, took to social media in September to post about a drop in the school’s enrollment. “A 3 percent decline in enrollment is nothing compared to what we will see if this continues … and real estate values will plummet as will tax revenues,” he wrote. “We all share in the responsibility to protect the values we hold dear that have made Oxford and Ole Miss known nationally.” He posted that Facebook status along with a photo of two Black University of Mississippi students, which for many insinuated that racial diversity was the cause of the decline in enrollment.
After receiving backlash, Meek issued an apology but simply saying sorry wouldn’t suffice. It sparked a larger conversation about racism on campus; both in the past and present. A group of professors and students penned a letter asking that the journalism school—which is currently named after Meek—be renamed after Wells-Barnett. “Removing Ed Meek’s name from the School is a necessary, but basic, step in a much longer process of reparative justice,” read the letter, according to the news outlet. “Our university must firmly stand for its stated values of intellectual excellence, non-discrimination and inclusion and support for all its students.”
The group is also asking for the removal of a Confederate statue on the Ole Miss campus and for journalism scholarships to be created for Black women who want to pursue careers in the media industry. The state College Board will have the final say in this matter. The University of Mississippi made the decision last year to include plaques in campus buildings that were built by slaves.
Ole Miss isn’t the only higher education institution that is dealing with present-day racism and past ties to slavery. Last year, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey renamed areas of its campus to pay homage to the slaves who built the university from the ground up.