IHL college board to approve relocating Confederate monument from heart of Ole Miss campus

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Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle

The Confederate monument  at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.

The board of trustees of the Institutions of Higher Learning, during its Thursday meeting, is expected to consider and approve a plan to relocate the Confederate monument at the University of Mississippi.

Several sources close to IHL board members told Mississippi Today on Monday that the 12-member board, amid statewide and national protests about racial inequities in government and Confederate iconography, will vote to approve the university’s plan to move the monument at its Thursday morning board meeting. The meeting will be held virtually, and a meeting agenda will be released on Wednesday.

Several representative bodies comprised of University of Mississippi undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and administrators voted in 2019 to move the monument from the heart of campus to an on-campus cemetery. Additionally, top university fundraisers, including Athletics Director Keith Carter, signed off on the monument’s relocation.

The IHL board approval is the final step necessary for the relocation.

The 30-foot monument of a battle-ready Confederate soldier, which the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected in 1906, greets visitors at the university’s main entrance. Although less visible to visitors and students, the on-campus cemetery is the resting place for hundreds of Confederate soldiers.

‘What we stand for as an Ole Miss family’: Meet the students leading a multiracial, bipartisan movement to relocate the school’s Confederate monument

The student-led, administration-sponsored plan to move the monument was unanimously approved in December by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which must sign off on substantial changes to historic districts.

But the IHL board stalled the relocation plan in January, when board member Tommy Duff said he wanted more information from the university about the move. All 12 board members are appointees of former Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, has been a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Last academic year, a group of students developed the idea to move the monument, claiming it did not represent present-day values of the student body. The student government senate passed their resolution, and later the faculty senate, the graduate student council, the staff council and the university’s top brass approved the same measure.

Such an undertaking at the University of Mississippi — a place steeped in Confederate iconography, plagued by a racially violent history and ongoing racist and sexist incidents, and endowed by wealthy and powerful white alumni who have resisted efforts to rid the school of its troublesome symbolism — is deeply complicated.

National debate has swirled regarding the prominence of similar statues in public spaces. As the students developed the plan for relocation last year, several neo-Confederate groups traveled to Oxford and marched to the monument, vowing to protect the Southern iconography that pays homage to the Lost Cause.

In 2019, conservative power brokers in Jackson and Washington moved to block the students’ efforts, but the university, at the time helmed by interim Chancellor Larry Sparks, approved their plan. Since the university’s administration approved the plan, the college board hired a permanent chancellor in Glenn Boyce, who said on the day he was hired he would not stand in the way of relocating the monument.

In public comments since, Boyce has consistently said his office is working to relocate the monument.