JACKSON• The Board of Trustees for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning pulled an item from the agenda that would have considered relocating the University of Mississippi’s Confederate monument at its monthly board meeting on Thursday morning.
Board member Tom Duff said he would like to hear a full report from the university regarding its plans for contextualization and replacing markers in the University Cemetery before voting on the item. A trustee has the option to pull an item from the agenda without consent from the board as a whole.
IHL Commissioner Al Rankins said the board will take the item up again as soon as the university submits the requested report.
"The university will provide a report back to the board regarding the status of the recommendations that were presented to the board back in 2017 as they relate to contextualization," Rankins said after the meeting. "That's the next step moving forward."
UM Chancellor Glenn Boyce said the next move for Ole Miss is to meet with IHL and find out the specifics of what they're looking for.
When asked if he was surprised by the board's decision to delay the vote, Boyce said that as former IHL commissioner he knows the board has options as to what they'd like to do with any agenda item and he had no idea what would happen going into Thursday's meeting.
Boyce said the university "will continue to work through this process and continue to provide whatever information is requested of us."
Leah Davis, co-director of the UM Associated Student Body's inclusion and cross-cultural engagement committee, said having the agenda item pulled was disappointing and not something she expected.
"We were expecting a decision, but we do trust that they will make a decision in a timely manner if the university administration and student body does their part providing whatever information they need," Davis said.
She said students will continue to advocate heavily for the monument's relocation.
"I think as the flagship university, we have to set the standard," Davis said. "We have to set the precedent for what is right and for reconciliation and I trust that IHL will uphold that standard."
Barron Mayfield, the Associated Student Body president at the university, said in a statement to the Daily Journal he was "incredibly disappointed" in the decision made by the IHL trustee, especially considering all four of the university's governing organizations approved a resolution asking for the monument to be relocated.
"The fight is not over," Mayfield said. "I plan to work with other student leaders and administrators to ensure that the proposal is quickly added back onto the IHL's next meeting agenda. I trust that the board members will set aside personal politics and do what is right for all members of the UM community."
Commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the 29-foot monument has stood at the center of Ole Miss’ campus since 1906.
The university has developed plans to move the monument to the University Cemetery near the Tad Smith Coliseum.
The Mississippi Military Memorial Protection Act prohibits the relocation, removal or alteration of monuments commemorating military figures, including Confederate soldiers. However, the statue may be moved to a “more suitable location” on campus deemed “more appropriate to displaying the monument” with IHL’s approval.
Neo-Confederate activists rallied around the statue on Feb. 23, 2019 with protest signs and Confederate flags. That same evening, eight Ole Miss men’s basketball players knelt during the national anthem in protest of the group’s presence on campus.
Early relocation efforts were led by the university’s Associated Student Body beginning in March 2019 when it unanimously passed a resolution calling on administrators to relocate the monument just days after the neo-Confederate rally.
Other campus government organizations passed similar resolutions in the following weeks and Larry Sparks, who was serving as interim chancellor, announced on March 21, 2019 that he agreed the monument should be relocated.
“Our campus constituents are in alignment, and we agree that the monument should be relocated to a more suitable location,” Sparks wrote in a statement on March.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the university’s technical plans for moving the monument on Dec. 6, 2019, confirming that they are in compliance with federal and state laws.