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Q&A with Forward Rebels' Lee Habeeb


QUESTION: He quoted that would "get real ugly." Do you know what that means?


ANSWER: No member of Forward Rebels made such comments, in public or private, and we condemn that kind of talk. Our words have been clearly stated in our ads. We have not attacked anyone’s character, and have kept our questions focused on performance. Public officials, especially highly paid ones, are not immune from such inquiries.



QUESTION: Is this coming from a single member, or is it orchestrated? 


ANSWER: Your assumption that this threat was from Forward Rebels is unfortunate. What is offensive is being accused of something we did not do. We don’t condone such threats. But Ole Miss supporters are allowed to publically ask hard questions of our leaders, even if those leaders accuse us of being uncivil. Or violating some creed or code. Or blaming us for the actions of one jerk, which the Chancellor’s regrettable email intimated. THAT is uncivil.  Indeed, it is never uncivil to ask leaders the hard questions they may not want to answer. That, above all else, is what any free society should stand for. And any university. It is certainly what separates us from uncivilized governments and leaders. 



QUESTION: Where does FR draw the line on civility or being abrasive toward the university?

ANSWER: A big line. We pledged never to attack the character of anyone, never use rude language, and ask the important questions. If asking serious questions of our leaders in a public forum breaches civility, then I believe we need a new definition of the word civility. 

Chancellor Jones has chosen to rebuke the Forward Rebels with emails. He has that right. But this top down approach to dealing with criticism, and with the substantive concerns and questions raised by Forward Rebels, will not end the discussion.

We would also add that we took the newspaper ad route because all other avenues had been tried. The very people who are accusing us of “airing Ole Miss dirty laundry” in public are the same people who basically told us to keep quiet and go away.  We believe it is actually a good thing to stimulate dialogue and discussion and challenge our leaders in public when they ignore the people. It is democracy in action. The leaders of Ole Miss assumed that by ignoring Forward Rebels, and the thousands of Ole Miss fans we represent, we would just go away. That was a miscalculation.



ANSWER: Boone’s record has been unimpressive by any standard, and he has managed the creation and preservation of an antiquated athletic bureaucracy while the rest of the nation moves forward with progressive leadership.  Boone’s leadership started in 1995, and lasted until 1998. He was rehired again in 2002 and now earns over $429,000 per year, a serious salary for a serious job. And so we ask, why should he stay? Is this his position for life? What are the benchmarks for our leaders at Ole Miss, who decides them, and when is it time to get new leaders for the betterment of the university? How many donors have withheld support until there is new leadership, and do they have that right to withhold their money? How many people have done so, and how much has it cost Ole Miss to keep Pete Boone? Is asking these kind of questions a bad thing? Is that permitted in an open society? Or is Ole Miss leadership somehow inoculated from such questions? 


QUESTION: Why does the group remain anonymous, if this is something they truly believe in?


ANSWER: Forward Rebels wants people agreeing with our words, not our biographies. We want this to be about the mission, not the people running the organization. From the Federalist Papers to MoveOn.org, there is a rich tradition of Americans getting together to share ideas in the marketplace unencumbered by authorship – and allowing the ideas to stand on their merit, good or bad. Read our website, our ads, and read our statement on our Facebook page to find out what we believe. And then choose to join. Or not join.

On the anonymity front, I might add here that many Ole Miss fans who count themselves as members told us that they feared that they’d be attacked for speaking their minds, and that has, in fact, happened. These members fear reprisals that might hurt their businesses, or worse. It is a sad state of affairs when people fear their own public servants for asking hard questions. It is a sad state of affairs when our leaders condemn citizens for asking hard questions, and use the pretext of civility to do so.


QUESTION: There have been letters sent out by other campus officials, such as M-Club and the Alumni office, asking the group to refrain from the campaign. What is your reaction to this?

ANSWER: Many M-Club Members are Forward Rebels.  Many more are alumni. In an age of Facebook, Twitter, and the internet, more and more organizations are learning that true communication comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up.  Listening has always been an important part of being an effective leader. Now, it is essential.  Forward Rebels will continue to take out ads, and engage the public through Google, Facebook, Twitter and the internet. And the more the leadership attacks the messenger with top down demands and edicts, the more we will grow. 


QUESTION: I've heard that some members have left the group because they thought it was getting too heavy, or involved, such as President David Bridgers and VP James Harper. Is this true? Why do you think they would decide to resign?


ANSWER: This answer is best left for those two good men to answer. 



QUESTION: How did you get involved in the group?

ANSWER: So many Ole Miss fans I know and respect were members. I have lots of professional experience with the media, and I was approached and agreed to volunteer to be the spokesperson. We had a gut feel that we’d be attacked for the ads by some who were determined to protect the status quo, but we also knew we’d get support from the Ole Miss fans as this story unfolded. The nearly 5,000 Ole Miss supporters that signed up with us just this past week proved that we are doing something right.