Why students at this iconic Southern school want their state flag removed.

With the eyes of the country on them, student senators at the University of Mississippi attended an important vote on Oct. 20, 2015.

Photo via iStock.


The verdict? They want the Mississippi state flag, which incorporates the controversial blue cross and stars of the Confederate flag into its design, off their campus.

In a 33-15 vote (with one vote abstained), the Associated Student Body Senate concluded that a symbol many believe to be undeniably racist is something, you know, they don't want tied to their school's image, according to CNN.

Now the senate will pass the resolution on to the school's administration to decide about whether they'll officially act or not.

This is a big deal. Not just because it's a large and influential university in the South, but because we're talking about the University of Mississippi.

Ole Miss, people.


Southern pride runs deep at Ole Miss (to put it lightly). And many inextricably tie that pride to the Confederate flag.

Near the same flag many students want removed is a monument honoring Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. Ole Miss is the hallmark public university of a state that, in 2001, voted overwhelmingly to keep its flag exactly as is — blue cross and stars included.

And the school's mascot? Literally the Rebels (up until 2003, you could spot Colonel Reb rousing fans at Vaught–Hemingway Stadium).


Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

Just bringing up the idea of removing the flag — the student government's vote was a first in "recent history," a spokesperson for the school told The Huffington Post — is newsworthy. So a heavy majority of student senators actually backing the removal? Again, really big.

“I think it shows that we as a student body recognize that these symbols of white supremacy have no place on our campus," student senator Allen Coon told The Washington Post. “They affect people that are marginalized. They make students feel excluded on their own campus, and they promote ideals of hate and racial oppression."

As you may have expected, the vote has already brought a wave of unhappy folks along with it.

A Change.org petition has cropped up to "keep the flag of the state of Mississippi flying at the University of Mississippi" in the vote's aftermath, started by student senator Andrew Soper.

Clearly, he's not having it with his peers' decision.

"In order to live in a free society, the possibility to be offended will occasionally occur," reads the petition, which also encourages Mississippians to push back [against] political correctness. "Removing symbols, flags, and monuments will do nothing to change the way people feel in their hearts."

The Mississippi state flag hanging among the others near the Senate subway in Washington, D.C. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

As of Oct. 21, 2015, the petition had also garnered more than 200 supporters. And at a rally promoting the removal of the flag last week, flag supporters — and even some members of the Ku Klux Klan — showed up to voice their (unashamedly racist) opinions, too — loud and clear.

Still, the fact that the student senators want to turn a corner — albeit a largely symbolic one — is important.

For student leaders to take this step at a school where riots infamously broke out after its first black student was admitted five decades ago is a momentous sign of progress that should be celebrated well beyond the Deep South.

"This decision is not an act of defiance towards our great state," student body executive officers said in a statement, "but a genuine call-to-action in response to the cries of those who have been negatively impacted by such a symbol, individuals in which we share our classrooms, our workplaces, our relationships, and our friendships."

Update (Oct. 27, 2015): The University of Mississippi removed its state flag from campus on Oct. 26, 2015, The New York Times reported.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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