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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Keenum: No immediate plans to remove state flag from campus

Mississippi’s state flag has caused much tension throughout the state in recent months, as many of the state’s residents call for a change to the state flag. Both the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi have removed the state flag from their campuses.

MSU’s President Mark Keenum was asked about his views on the push for change of the Mississippi state flag after speaking to a group of students at Ocean Springs High School earlier this week.

While in Ocean Springs on Monday, Keenum said he has no intentions of making changes to the flags flying on MSU’s campus right now, however, he expressed his opinion on changing the state flag to a more unifying image.

“It is not my intent to step out and make any changes to the flags that are flying on our campus at this time,” Keenum said in an interview with Gulf Live, an online publication.

Some media outlets are criticizing Keenum for the statement he made while in Ocean Springs. Some consider his recent statements almost contradictory in light of a statement he released this past summer on July 9, which states his stance on the state flag shortly after the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina that killed nine people attending a church Bible study.

“Flags should unite us and bring us together, not divide us. The tragic events in South Carolina and the evolving national debate over the state flag is a debate that should take place today in Mississippi,” Keenum said in a release this past summer. “I have seen no indication that attitudes have changed on that question on our campus.”

Chief Communications Officer of MSU Sid Salter said the university has heard from both ends of the spectrum on the state flag issue, but legally must continue to fly the state flag until a change has been voted on.

“Ultimately, the decision about the future of the current state flag is one that can be directly influenced by voters or the state government through legislative action,” Salter said.

Salter also said the university has received criticism from those who oppose the flag, and those who support the flag being up.

“In 2001 and in 2015 the president, faculty and students all expressed support for change,” he said. “Nothing that was said on the coast reflects any change from his statement this summer after the South Carolina incident.”

According to Salter, before Keenum took the position of president of the university in 2009, the state flag was flown at five separate locations around campus, which has not changed since that year.

Salter stated the state flag flies at the Hunter Henry Center, the Center for America’s Veterans, Perry Cafeteria, the School of Veterinary Medicine and the Agriculture Division Bull Barn.

President Keenum could not be reached for comment at this time.

In September this year, the MSU Student Association passed Resolution 12, which stated the student body believes the current state flag issue should be addressed by the state legislature.

“Our stance is the same as it was then,” SA President Jojo Dodd said. “We want the flag to change.”

Dodd said the SA has continued working with the student associations of other universities to draft a state-wide joint resolution urging the legislature to change the controversial emblem.

“It’s between long term progress and immediate gratification,” Dodd said. “We believe concentrating all of our efforts now on the main objective will be a larger benefit for the future.”

Wilburn Smith, president of the NAACP on campus and president of the Society of African American Studies, said the flag represents racism.

“I do not agree with it,” Smith said. “If you know the flag symbolizes racism or inequality or gives off negative vibes and this is supposed to be a diverse and equal campus, you should take all student’s views into consideration.”

Wilson said the confederate symbol on the flag is what makes the flag offensive.

“I know Mississippi fought in the war, but all of the history that stands behind that war is why I don’t agree with MSU representing the flag any longer,” Wilson said. “Both of my organizations have discussed this topic and we are trying to make sure students are aware of the locations the flag is flown on campus. We want everyone to understand we will have to come together and take action to make these changes.

Keenum said to Gulf Live that he advocates positive change for the Mississippi state flag, and said he feels it is important to remain progressive in how those changes are made.

“I think it’s important for this generation, the current generation on our campus and for my generation that we have symbols that unite us and not be divisive. That’s what I’m in favor of and that’s what our campus community is in favor of,” Keenum said.

Salter said the views expressed by many students, faculty and staff regarding the state flag are respected but the university is not where the laws governing the state flag will change.

“Mississippi State has played an important leadership role in the inclusion and diversity in the state beyond the mere symbolism of flags,” Salter said.

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Keenum: No immediate plans to remove state flag from campus