Governor not showing support for student-led initiative to remove state flag

Governor not showing support for student-led initiative to remove state flag
It's a symbol of hate, and it has no place on our campus

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is not showing support for the student-led initiative to encourage the removal of the state flag from the University of Mississippi's Oxford campus.

At a press conference for a separate issue Thursday, Bryant said while he did not know much about the resolution that passed by the student senate this week, he thought it was emotionally driven.

"I think college students react a lot emotionally," Bryant said.

The resolution, which passed 33-15-1 after more than two hours of debate, encourages the state's flagship university to remove the state flag from campus. The resolution also encourages the state legislature to "hasten their pursuit of a new state flag."

Those who oppose the flag, which bears a Confederate emblem, consider it a relic of the past that hurts the university's efforts to be more inclusive.

"It's a symbol of hate, and it has no place on our campus," Ole Miss sophomore and Petal High School graduate Allen Coon said.

Coon was one of the students who led the passage of the resolution, and he said the governor was incorrect in targeting college students.

"It's not just college students," Coon said. "We're seeing people across the state saying this (flag) is not representative of us as Mississippians."

Mississippi's Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn was the first ranking republican to make a statement against the flag, followed by U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran, among many other prominent state and local leaders.

Mississippi State University's student government passed a resolution in September that also encourages the state legislature to reconsider the flag, and the student government president at The University of Southern Mississippi said a piece of legislation is in the works regarding the flag, although he did not know the specifics.

Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Alcorn State University have all removed the state flag from their campuses, but Bryant, referring to Ole Miss's resolution, said schools do not have that right.

"I don't think (students) have any legal authority whatsoever to determine what the state flag is and where it flies, particularly over public buildings," Bryant said.

Mississippi Code 37-13-5 (1) stated the state flag "shall be displayed" at all times when school is in session and that it is the duty of the school district to provide flags for display.

Coon said that, by using the "school district" language, it only applies to K-12 schools, not institutions of higher learning, which are run by the IHL, not school districts.

The Ole Miss resolution now goes before the interim chancellor for approval.