By Talbert Toole
The Ole Miss Faculty Senate voted unanimously Thursday night in favor of a resolution to move the Confederate statue at the edge of the Circle to the cemetery on campus. The cemetery, where experts estimate between 400-700 Confederate and Union soldiers are buried, lies south of the Tad Smith Coliseum.
The vote comes off the heels of the Associated Student Body and Graduate Student Council passing initial resolutions.
Prior to the vote, Senate members—who are representatives from the university’s deparments—amended some language and terminology of the resolution. The original resolution reflected previous legislation that was voted upon by the Associated Student Body and Graduate Student Council. Members discussed and amended verbiage that would allow future faculty senate members to assess the appropriateness of the cemetery for the Confederate statue, if the point were to be raised.
One topic of discussion was understanding who the “governing body” is that can make the decision to relocate the statue.
In a forum hosted Feb. 26 by UM Provost Noel Wilkin, a question was raised whether governing bodies on campus actually have the power to remove the statue.
“It’s clear to me that the Provost does not have the authority to move that statue,” Wilkin said. “It’s not clear to me based on my interpretations of the policies who the governing board is. For me, that’s where that process begins.”
Wilkin said the administration is working “to ensure we understand how to get clarity” on that governing body.
However, Stacey Lantagne, vice chair and law school representative, said in her opinion this specific situation is different than decisions made by the Institute of Higher Learning.
Lantagne said she believes the governing body for this issue is the current organizations who are passing resolutions for its relocation.
“I think there is a decent argument to be made that [the governing body] is all of us,” Lantagne said.
Interim Vice Chancellor Larry Sparks said in a statement sent to all UM faculty, students and staff Thursday morning that he appreciates the “thoughtful and deliberate consideration that the student groups have given to formulating, debating, and passing their resolutions recommending relocation of the monument.”
Though he didn’t reference an appropriate “governing board” specifically, he said in order to relocate the statue the university needs to submit an agenda item to the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi State Institutions of Higher Learning for consideration.
“Prior to that, the university would need to develop its justification that the cemetery is a suitable location, as required by the statute, and consult with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History due to the landmark status of the monument,” he said in the statement.