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Honoring the University creed

For me, Election Day was unbelievably conflicting. I was proud of my country for choosing to move forward with President Obama – the democratic election process was successful once again. Sadly, my joy soon turned to disappointment when I heard how a small group of our students reacted to the president’s re-election. Ole Miss made national headlines for the protests following the president’s victory, and, as a result, we may have lost any credibility we gained as a progressive institution.
I understand that each individual has the right to express his or her opinions on this campus. However, the election night discourse on campus was far from respectable. Racial slurs were yelled, signs were burned and “Dixie” was played. Students shouted, “The South will rise again.” These actions have no place on The University of Mississippi’s campus and are not becoming of an Ole Miss Rebel.
This summer I had the privilege of serving as an Ole Miss Orientation Leader. At the welcome ceremony – after we sang the Alma Mater – incoming freshmen, their parents and orientation leaders stood up to recite the University Creed.
Every student at The University of Mississippi pledges to uphold the University Creed. Politics is never an excuse to disrespect a fellow member of the Ole Miss family or the president of the United States. As Ole Miss Rebels, we need to practice what we preach.
I understand that some people might not agree with President Obama’s policies; politics are frustrating. We all love America and we’re all concerned about the future of this nation. But politics should never divide this campus so far that students turn to racial slurs as outlets for their anger. The fact that some students played “Dixie” upon the re-election of our first black president is utterly shameful. Screaming, “The South will rise again” in the faces of black students is degrading and disrespectful. Burning Obama-Biden signs in front of residence halls is not civil discourse. If those students wanted to do their true civic duty, they would have watched President Obama’s election night speech instead of burning his campaign signs.
But at the end of the day, the vast majority of Ole Miss students did not participate in these hateful protests. The sad fact is, the students who chose to shout racial slurs and play “Dixie” because of the President’s re-election tarnished the reputation of the Ole Miss family and our entire university. Students need to realize that whatever we do, whatever we say, and wherever we go, we are all ambassadors for The University of Mississippi. Our actions directly reflect our university as a whole. Even though only a small portion of students were part of the vitriolic protests on election night, they gave Ole Miss a bad name – they undermined the strides we’ve made over the past 50 years.
I will always be proud to call The University of Mississippi my home. But I’m not proud of the way some members of the Ole Miss family carried themselves on election night. Regardless of our differences, we all need to remember the pledges we took at Orientation in the University Creed. Ole Miss Rebels believe in the respect and dignity of each person. Ole Miss Rebels believe in fairness and civility. And Ole Miss Rebels believe in personal and professional integrity. Republican or Democrat, black or white, gay or straight, able or disabled – we’re all Ole Miss Rebels, we’re all part of the Ole Miss family, and we’re all proud Americans.
On our 50th year of integration, we have been so proud to share the progress we’ve made with our friends across the United States. If we want to honor that progress and continue making strides forward – if we want to prove ourselves to the rest of the country – I recommend we start by honoring the University Creed.

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