Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Admiral Ackbar and Southern Pride

Today we are having a vote at Ole Miss. Our beloved mascot for decades, Colonel Reb, was removed from the field in 2003. This left the Rebels as the only SEC team without an on-field mascot. It is now 2010, seven years later, and we are still without a mascot. The vote today is on this topic, but what it is exactly that we are voting for is puzzling.

Let's start with a little back story.  The University has already had it's share of drama and division this year. In the fall the Administration decided to ask the band to remove "From Dixie With Love" from their gametime songs. Playing "From Dixie With Love" at games, like having Colonel Reb as our mascot, is an Ole Miss tradition. The problem was that a new tradition arose a little over a decade ago, though why it took until now for the Administration to make a move on it is a mystery. This new tradition was yelling "the South shall rise again!" Instead of singing "the truth is marching on!" at the end of the song.

The Administration announced to the students that they did not like the phrase being yelled at the end of the song, which is fine.  The problem arose when students (and alumni, the administration can't blame this solely on the students, I was at the games and saw what happened) continued to chant at the end of the song.  With no open forum for discussion about this, tensions mounted between the administration and a large part of the student body.  This resulted in "From Dixie With Love" being removed permanently.

Another action that has resulted in some anger (but has not yet resulted in the media attention these other topics have garnered) was the announcement that spots in the Grove would be rented.  I'm unclear at the time of writing this as to whether or not this will actually be followed through with, it was merely proposed the last time I heard about it.  The problem with this is that it is asking people to pay for something that has always been free, and it makes people worry that it will change the whole dynamic of the Grove, thus destroying the Grove as we know it.

The latest factor in these divisions on campus is the Colonel Reb debate, the reason for this writing.  In 2001 the student body voted on possibly getting a new mascot, the voted not to do it.  Two years later, 2003, saw the removal of Colonel Reb as our on-field mascot.  Since this happened, groups such as the Colonel Reb Foundation have sprung up, and seeing people around campus with stickers proclaiming "Colonel Reb Is My Mascot!" have become commonplace.

The current administration has stated numerous times that we will not be revisiting the topic of bringing Colonel Reb back.  They have decided to allow for a student vote, taking place while I am writing this post, on what to do about the mascot situation.  This vote is a controversial topic on its own.  Original reports were that today's vote would be on whether or not students wanted to create a new mascot, which was a fine thing to vote on, because it is an important topic.  The wording of the choices is what has lead to much confusion though.  The choices read as such:

"Yes, I do support a student-led effort to develop and propose a NEW “on-field” mascot to represent the OLE MISS REBELS. "


"No, I do not support a student-led effort to develop and propose a NEW “on-field” mascot to represent the OLE MISS REBELS."

The way I read this, it does not leave room for no new mascot, the vote has now become on whether or not the students want a voice in choosing our new mascot.   In my honest opinion, this is deceptive, but I am unable to do anything about it.  The Colonel Reb Foundation continues to say that a vote No is a vote for no new mascot, while recent articles in the Daily Mississippian say that it is what it says, just a vote on whether or not students want a voice when we inevitable get a new mascot.

So how do you choose which way to vote when you don't want either option?  Not voting is not a good choice, because people are going to vote, so a decision will be made.  This isn't the same as voting a person into office, where people say they choose the "lesser of two evils," because this is less complex than that.  At no point are we being asked if we even want a new mascot, it is just being assumed that we do, and we are being told that that is what we want.

One of my problems with this is the lack of input lately from the people who actually know what is going on.  The administration isn't saying why we aren't voting on whether or not we want a new mascot, or even if that is what we're voting on now.  When I asked the Dean of Students to explain to me why we are going through with this even though so many people are confused, he told me "don't worry about it, just vote yes."  That makes me worry about it more.

My faith in the current administration is running low, and the University I love is being torn apart before my eyes by politics. The problem as I see it isn't just Colonel Reb, it isn't just "From Dixie With Love," it is the slow and steady removal of Ole Miss's southern heritage.  It is the lack of communication and transparency between the administration and the student body.  My only hope is that the school I have loved for so long doesn't become just a faint memory.

So, where does Admiral Ackbar come into play? Just go to this site.  I don't even want to talk about that now.

Author's note: my purpose in writing this is not to persuade you to agree with me about the importance of southern pride and traditions, merely to show what has happened on the campus and explore what these things mean.  Please don't turn this into a debate on race, because that is not what this is as I see it.

UPDATE (2/24/10): The vote's outcome was in favor of the selection being student led (so the first choice above).  Also, apparently the Admiral Ackbar movement has some serious support, so it will be interesting to see how that turns out.  News sources have announced that "Ole Miss Students Voted to Replace Colonel Reb" which has some people wondering why we did that.  All I can do is reiterate that we did not vote to replace him, we were told he was going to be replaced.

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