Indiana Daily Student

Ole Miss to vote on new mascot

The University of Mississippi dumped the mascot Colonel Reb — a caricature of a white plantation owner — in a 2003 effort to distance the school from Old South stereotypes. It’s been without a mascot ever since, but a vote Tuesday could change that.

Students will have two choices in the online referendum: replace the colonel with something else, or remain the only school in the conference without a mascot.
In a world where football is akin to religion and sports symbolism has power, this is no small matter. Stories about the upcoming vote have run prominently in the campus newspaper for weeks, with “Save Colonel Reb” ads.

“We’re tired of having nothing to represent us,” said junior Josh Hinton, a member of the Associated Student Body, which approved a resolution calling for the vote. “We’ve gotten our song taken away. We want to have some kind of tradition back.”

Ole Miss has struggled for more than a decade over how to retain traditions while shedding symbols of the Old South. It’s all part of an effort to remove racial tensions that date back to 1962, when a deadly riot followed James Meredith’s attempt to become the university’s first black student.

In 1997, the school ended the waving of Confederate flags at sporting events. Then Colonel Reb was booted off the field. Last year, the band stopped playing the fight song, “From Dixie with Love,” to discourage the fan chant, “The South will rise again.”

Koriann Porter, a black sophomore who collected more than 1,700 student signatures supporting a new mascot, said much has changed on campus since the civil rights era. Fifteen percent of the 18,344 students are black. The state’s black population is 37.2 percent.

“When it comes to racial reconciliation, we embody the utopian society,” Porter said.

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