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A great column appeared in Tuesday’s Daily Mississippian written by my friend, Tim Abram. It’s the best opinion column I’ve read as a student here at The University of Mississippi — and it’s a message all of our students need to hear. Mr. Abram spoke of the tacit approval of racism on our campus, which has allowed the problem to persist since integration in 1962.
Because of the racially motivated incidents on our campus last week, a group of student leaders and I drafted an open letter strongly condemning hateful speech and those who partake in that type of dialogue at our university. I strongly stand by our letter. If a student is of the opinion that it is acceptable to shout racial slurs at my friends and classmates, then he or she does not belong on the campus of The University of Mississippi. We don’t stand for hate. This is not 1962; our university will not harbor bigotry and it will not be a safe haven for those still stuck in the past.
However, to be proactive in addressing this problem, we need to understand why these incidents continually occur on our campus. We have to ask ourselves — does The University of Mississippi provide a safe and comfortable environment for those students who choose to participate in hateful and racist speech? Why do students come to our university and think they can say racial slurs with no consequences?
Maybe it’s because we have a statue in the circle that refers to confederate soldiers as “heroes.” Maybe it’s because we have not fully gotten rid of Colonel Reb. Maybe it’s because we refer to ourselves as the “Ole Miss Rebels,” with even the name “Ole Miss” coming from racist origins. Maybe it’s because our Greek system is almost just as segregated as The University of Mississippi was in 1962. Maybe it’s because we still play “Dixie” at our sporting events. Or maybe it’s because our one dining hall is named after former Governor Paul B. Johnson Jr., a vitriolic segregationist who tried to physically block James Meredith from entering our campus.
Because the University Creed is essentially just a symbol rather than an enforceable honor code, it is our responsibility as students to hold each other accountable for living a life that embraces the Creed’s tenets. Whether that means standing up to our fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, Greek advisors or alumni, parents or family members, faculty or administrators — we as a student body have more control over the culture on this campus than we realize, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that the culture is welcoming, and to change it if it is not.
I love The University of Mississippi — I love the South, I love Mississippi. Nonetheless, it’s about time we move on from our closed-society past and strive to progress as an institution and student body that welcomes with open arms people of all backgrounds. Black or white, gay or straight, Northern or Southern — don’t we preach that we’re all a family at this university? Yes, because of our history, The University of Mississippi is held to a higher standard than other universities when it comes to race relations. But instead of whining and complaining, let’s embrace the double standard and hold each other accountable for our words and actions.
We can no longer be silent. Our campus desperately needs to have a conversation about respect, race, and equality. As Plato said, “silence gives consent.”
The University of Mississippi doesn’t need any more consent; The University of Mississippi needs change.

Sean Higgins is a political science and sociology double-major from Brookings, S.D. Follow him on Twitter @seanmhiggins.