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Arts & Culture

University Of Mississippi Lowers State Flag In Debate Over Confederate Symbols

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The University of Mississippi is no longer flying the state flag on its campus. It joined several other schools in the state as well as a few cities that have taken it down. That's because the flag contains the Confederate battle flag in its design. Sandra Knispel of Mississippi Public Broadcasting was at Ole Miss today as the flag came down.

SANDRA KNISPEL, BYLINE: Just a handful of people watched at 7 a.m. as a steady drizzle fell. University police officers, in an unannounced ceremony, pulled down the state flag outside the Ole Miss Lyceum. One of the few in attendance was the university's interim chancellor, Morris Stocks.

MORRIS STOCKS: It was a very hard decision. We love and respect our state. We appreciate our state leaders and understand their perspectives, but we want our university to be a welcoming place for all students and faculty.

KNISPEL: Last week, the university's faculty and student senate and staff council voted to retire the flag. Their decision was spurred by the Charleston church shootings and a small KKK affiliated group that appeared on campus telling an anti-flag student rally that black lives did not matter. Again, Chancellor Stocks.

STOCKS: The flag had become a hindrance. We want the state to create a flag that unites us rather than divides us.

KNISPEL: The flag pole at Ole Miss now has just the U.S. flag. Student Haley Williams is an African-American biology major.

HALEY WILLIAMS: I definitely feel triumph. It's definitely a sense of victory, not just so much as a flag being down, but it's just a sense of change here at the university. The flag being down is not the final step. If anything, it's just the beginning of a process of more equality here on campus.

KNISPEL: Reactions today were mixed. Some accused the university of destroying its history and tradition, something Ole Miss has wrestled over for years. For NPR News, I'm Sandra Knispel in Oxford, Miss. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.