University of Mississippi student, Jordan Samson, voluntarily withdrew from the university after posting racist comments on social media in September. On Sept. 23, a screenshot of Samson’s comment on another student’s post began to circulate.
Samson’s comment eluded to lynching, and quickly went viral throughout the student body and community. His comment read, “I have a tree with enough room for all of them if you want to settle this Wild West style.” The Facebook comment was written in response to North Carolina protests involving an African American man who was shot by police.
As the controversy spread, Ole Miss students occupied the Lyceum in response to what some believed was an insufficient response by Ole Miss administration.
Although Frank Davis, an Ole Miss student, was not involved in the demonstration, he believes that some people don’t understand how seriously their words can be taken by others.
“I think his comment was negative,” Davis said. “Samson should have kept the comment to himself, but some people feel like they should say things like that. To other people, it’s acceptable, and to some people, it’s not. But in my opinion, I would say that comment was negative. If [withdrawing] was something he wanted to do, then I support that.”
In response to the student demonstration, the University of Mississippi issued a press release at news.olemiss.edu reading: “We, as a university, condemn the use of language that is threatening or racist, and we are committed to protecting our students and faculty. We also believe in the power of higher education to transform individuals,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.
Samson issued an apology to the community that read: “I give my most sincere apologies to each person and any group of people that I have offended. I am deeply sorry for my lapse of judgement. I hope that you can find forgiveness in your heart for me.”
Although Samson has voluntarily withdrawn from the university, he will remain on campus to work with the staff of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement to participate in activities aimed at bridging the gap between races.
In university’s press release, vice chancellor for student affairs, Brandi Hephner LaBlanc said, “[Samson] has willingly agreed to take the educational and reparative steps that the University of Mississippi believes are necessary to help restore a healthy and productive environment for all members of our community, including Jordan.”
Although the topic is still a source of debate among students, Holly Higgins does not believe Samson’s decision to leave the university was the correct choice. To Higgins, education trumps the negativity surrounding the comment.
“I don’t know, I think leaving the university is kind of a huge step,” Higgins said. “This is his education, and I don’t know if he really has that much hatred towards African Americans. We’re college students. We make dumb decisions. To lose your whole education at the university over one dumb decision seems kind of huge.”
Student Gage Adam agrees with Higgins. He said Samson’s withdrawal from the university was sudden.
“Really, the whole withdrawal thing is on him,” Adam. “I don’t think what he did was right, and I understand the protests, but he could have waited with his decision to withdraw, and I’m sure things would have blown over.”
Although some believe the reaction to Samson’s Facebook comment was warranted, other students believe his decision to withdraw from classes were a positive thing.
“I think what Samson said was an awful thing to say,” said freshmen Thomas Dominick. “I think it’s a good thing he withdrew from the university, and I disagree with what he said.”
In Ole Miss’s press release regarding the issue, Hepner LaBanc, said, “Even though the social media comment (Samson) made may have been protected expression, Jordan wanted to take responsibility for the impact of his post on our community.”
UM sophomore Madeleine Bradley agrees with Samson’s decision to withdraw from his classes.
“Even though I know everyone in this country has a right to free speech, I think, in this day and age, you need to watch what you say,” Bradley said. “Samson did not just comment on an irrelevant issue; he commented on issues that are prevalent. The bottom line is, in today’s society, you need to watch what you say regarding sensitive subjects.”