Debate over state flag creates hostility among UM students

Allison Fazio
The Oxford Eagle

The Oct. 20 student senate vote in favor to take down the state flag at the University of Mississippi has sparked further controversy among Ole Miss students.

Following the 33-15 vote for flag removal, a petition created by UM student senator Andrew Soper was established to keep the state flag flying on campus.

Shortly after creating this petition, Soper emailed all ASB Senators asking for help and support with his petition.

According to Campus Reform, Allen Coon, president of Ole Miss Democrats and the student senator who spear-headed the motion to remove the flag, tweeted at Soper about his email.

“@andrewsoper1 emailed me requesting that I oppose legislation that I authored.”

Coon’s tweet did not go unnoticed. According to Campus Reform, Sierra Mannie, Ole Miss student editor for The Daily Mississippian, saw Coon’s tweet on Twitter and accused Soper of being a racist and a homophobe.

Mannie’s strong feelings led her to create her own petition against Soper. This petition calls for the impeachment of Soper from the UM Student Senate and lists the reason why he is unfit for this duty.

“With Andrew Soper’s racist and homophobic behavior, it is clear that he is not fit to serve as a representative of the University of Mississippi,” Mannie wrote within her petition.

Removing a student senator from office is not as easy as it may seem. John Brahan, vice president of the UM Associated Student Body, said many factors are considered when a senator may undergo the process of impeachment.

“Senators can be removed from senate for missing meetings, not conduct,” Brahan said. “Senators and other elected officials can be impeached with a petition signed by 20 percent of the UM student body.”

A signed petition is just the beginning of the long process that involves removing a student senator. According to Brahan, senators being tried for impeachment need to have a hearing with the ethics committee.

After that hearing, potential impeached senators have to attend a hearing with the senate rules committee. The senator would then be brought to the senate floor, where other senators would vote to keep or remove the senator in question. It takes a 2/3rds vote to remove a senator.

The call for impeachment against Soper has led to further discussions between UM students. Ole Miss junior Danielle Randall is a journalism major and native of Missouri. Although she is from the Midwest, Randall still feels strongly about this topic.

“I think it is ridiculous,” she said. “I don’t think it is right for an impeachment to be called just because he (Soper) has different views than someone else.”

Mannie’s petition currently has 182 supporters, far from the estimated 4,000 supporter goal. A counter petition was anonymously created on Oct. 25 supporting Soper and the freedom of expression on campus.

This newer petition states that “the Ole Miss student body endorses the expression of differing, non-hate speech viewpoints—without risk of consequence, retaliation, or slander—on our campus.”

The petition also states that they do not endorse Soper’s opinions on the Mississippi state flag, but feel that he has a right to express his viewpoint. This petition currently has 663 supporters.

removal of state flag

Ole Miss campus after the removal of the state flag.

Although the state flag was taken down at a ceremony held early in the morning on Oct. 26, all three of these petitions are still active as they each individually fight for what they believe in.

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