OXFORD • Nearly 180 days after agreeing to relocate its Confederate monument, the University of Mississippi released initial plans on Wednesday detailing how it intends to move the statue that currently stands in the heart of the Ole Miss campus to the Confederate cemetery.
The university’s facilities planning department released drawings and specifications Wednesday on its website. Those plans propose disassembling the statue in the Circle and transporting the statue to the Confederate cemetery, located near the Tad Smith Coliseum, where the statue will be reassembled, with security plans in place for the entire process.
Larry Sparks, the university’s interim chancellor, sent a statement following the release of the plans saying the university has been coordinating with officials to relocate the statue since March.
“We are following the steps necessary for successful relocation and will maintain steady and committed progress to accomplish this relocation,” Sparks said in the statement. “I reiterate that this will place the monument in a more suitable location, one that is commensurate with the purpose that is etched on its side.”
The university will now submit this plan to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the state Institutions of Higher Learning for approval.
Michael Morris, the spokesperson for the MDAH told the Daily Journal in a statement that MDAH has received the plans and is currently in the process of having its board of trustees review the plans.
“A permit from the MDAH Board of Trustees is required in the early stages of planning and before the letting of bids for public construction or improvement affecting Mississippi Landmarks,” the statement reads. “Once the review process is complete, the issue will be placed on the agenda of the MDAH Board of Trustees.”
The next regular MDAH meeting is on Sept. 17, but Morris told the Daily Journal he did not know when the relocation plan would be placed on an agenda for a meeting.
Members of the MDAH board of trustees include Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum and Reuben Anderson, the first black person to be appointed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Caron Blanton, the spokesperson for IHL, said IHL did not have anything to add to the statements.
In March, the Associated Student Body on campus unanimously passed a resolution urging the university administration to relocate the monument, which led to every campus government organization passing similar resolutions.
Students and faculty members began calling for the monument to be moved to the cemetery after the statue served as a focal point for a neo-Confederate rally in February where protesters covered portions of the university and the community with protest signs and Confederate flags.
The protest left portions of the campus divided where student minority groups spoke out against the protest and held a Black History Month March that same week in dissent of the Confederate statue on campus.
“I sometimes pass by this statue without giving it a second thought …, but then there are times when I’m reminded of the truth, when I think about all the people who choose not to visit our campus because of our exclusionary symbols,” said Jarius Adams, the former president of the UM Gospel Choir at the time of the protest.
The weekend protest was overshadowed by a mere 60 seconds when eight Ole Miss basketball players knelt during the national anthem in response to a Confederate protest, which gained national attention.
“We’re just tired of these hate groups coming to our school and portraying our campus, our actual university, as having these hate groups in our school,” Ole Miss basketball player Breein Tyree said in a postgame press conference.
The relocation plans span a decades long struggle for the university grappling with its history of Confederate monuments.
On Sept. 29, 1962, then-Gov. Ross Barnett delivered a fiery speech to Ole Miss fans waving Confederate battle flags during halftime at the Ole Miss vs. Kentucky game, where he told the fans James Meredith, the university’s first black student, would not enroll at the school. This prompted protesters to rally at the Confederate monument urging officials to keep Meredith out of the school.
In 1997, the university administration banned wooden flag sticks from football games, which essentially outlawed Confederate flags from being displayed at sporting events. In 2003, the university administration removed Colonel Reb, Confederate plantation owner, as its mascot from the field and has since been replaced as the official mascot of the university.
When IHL and MDAH approve of the plan, it is expected for the monument to be relocated within 90 days of the initial construction work.