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Ole Miss faculty ask donor to remove name after racial post

September 22, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Journalism faculty members at the University of Mississippi on Friday asked a donor to voluntarily remove his name from the journalism school following a social media post criticized by Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter for an “unjustified racial overtone.”

In a statement, faculty members asked that Ed Meek within three days request to have his name removed from School of Journalism and New Media, saying he had “violated the fundamental values of the school and the university.”

“We invite Dr. Ed Meek to be part of a conversation about charting a path forward that speaks to our core values and should guide our future relationships with all constituents,” said the faculty statement , published on the journalism school’s website.

Meek wrote a Facebook post Wednesday with photos of two black women in short dresses, suggesting they exemplify problems that could economically harm Oxford, where the university is located. Vitter condemned the post within hours.

“The photos in his post suggest an unjustified racial overtone that is highly offensive,” Vitter wrote in a comment under Meek’s post, which has since been removed.

One of the women pictured wrote that the post “reeks of racist ideology as well as misogyny.”

Vitter on Friday wrote in an open letter that removing Meek’s name would have to start with the journalism school’s faculty, move through a series of faculty and administrative committees, and ultimately be recommended by Vitter to state College Board trustees.

“This process is, by design, thoughtful and intentional,” Vitter wrote.

Journalism Dean Will Norton Jr. said faculty didn’t vote to start that process Friday. Norton said he’s trying to reach Meek and that school leadership may prepare a report for faculty. A vote could be held if faculty meet again after the deadline. Norton said no such meeting is scheduled but added “that doesn’t mean there won’t be one.” Norton said “there are all kinds of subtleties” involved in the situation. Meek has been silent since he posted an apology he later deleted.

In an editorial, the school’s student newspaper on Friday called for Ole Miss to remove Meek’s name from the school and “entirely cut ties” with him.

“His name and the division it has come to represent do not align with our values,” The Daily Mississippian wrote . “This change is absolutely necessary to uphold everything we stand for — as journalists, as students, as individuals. Students should not have to attend a school whose name makes them feel discriminated against.”

Meek led Ole Miss public relations for 37 years starting in 1964. The School of Journalism and New Media was named for him after he and his wife donated $5.3 million in 2009

Vitter also wrote that the university would consider new ways to “address concerns around university and community climate.”

Meek’s post came following months of debate in Oxford over whether and how to control underage drinking and crowds around the town’s iconic downtown square. Aldermen voted earlier this month to require businesses serving alcohol to install cameras and other systems to verify identification. The debate prompted allegations of racism aimed at a concert hall that saw shots fired at a party that welcomed an African-American audience last spring, as well as claims that it was unnecessary surveillance.

A report of a fight prompted a crowd to run out of the same downtown music venue Saturday.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy . Read his work at https://www.apnews.com/search/By%20Jeff%20Amy .

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