February 21, 2014
Daniel W. Jones, M.D.
The University of Mississippi
Dear Chancellor Jones:
We are writing to express our deep concern about the recent incident at the University of Mississippi in which two unidentified men placed a noose around the neck of the statue of James Meredith, the school’s first black student. There have reportedly been other recent incidences of troubling acts of homophobia and racism.
College is a unique and special time in a young person’s life where they have the opportunity to meet and interact with many different kinds of people, often unlike those they have known in their home communities. This can and should be a positive aspect of college life. While we appreciate that you and other university officials acknowledge the challenge you face has deep and difficult roots, it is critical that our colleges are places where students feel safe, accepted and where all students can thrive.
The Daily Mississippian states that “these events continue to happen semester after semester and year after year.” We understand that Old Miss has come a long way from 1962 when the first black student was admitted in the midst of violence and hatred. However, incidences of this nature should not be taking place regularly in the year 2014.
We appreciate that, as you described, the University “has taken steps, both collectively and individually, to try to bring ourselves into the mainstream of America on thought about race” and that “change can take hold only so quickly.” However, the positive change you seek not only takes time; it also takes intentional effort.
Members of campus communities face many challenges as they struggle to create environments where diversity is truly valued and respected. As you may know, the Anti-Defamation League is a leading provider of anti-bias education. Through our Campus of Difference programs, we have assisted thousands of colleges and universities in exploring the impact of bias and discrimination on the campus climate and identifying effective responsive strategies.
We would be happy to assist you in your efforts to create a safe and welcoming college environment for all students.
Abraham H. Foxman