Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
Today, the University of Mississippi is celebrating a diverse community with 24.3 percent minority student enrollment; however, some of the students say the atmosphere on the campus is uncomfortable for minorities.
The election night fiasco on Nov. 5 drew national attention and is still fresh in the memories of many.
Bryan Cooper Owens, an instructor of African American Studies at Ole Miss, says prejudice is not uncommon here.
“On the campus or around the town, some minority students or faculty members have been victims of “thrown rocks or beer cans, physically confronted, or harassed online,” said Cooper Owens. “This is very much a day-to-day issue if you are not the majority.”
Also Cooper Owens says minorities do not have voice on campus.
“I feel that this university tends toward a monoculture and that the concerns of people who fall outside of this culture are not given as much credence,” said Cooper Owens.
An African American student, Jamie Thomas, says that she and her friends have had many uncomfortable experiences while at the university and decided to do something.
“We’re not angry, just trying to make everything a smoother process here at the university for us all,” said Thomas.
Thomas has joined the African Activist Student Alliance, which was formed in the wake of the election night incidents.
“Our goal is to provide all minorities resources and opportunities and beneficial information to combat every type of oppression such as racial and sexual assault, homophobia, etc.,” said Thomas.
The group had its first meeting on April 5, with 18 students participating.
The guest speaker, Dr. Donald R. Cole, assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs, encouraged the group to be active.
“This is not a perfect institution. It is your responsibility to leave it a better place,” said Cole.
According to Cooper Owens, some faculty and staff at Ole Miss have taken the campus atmosphere issues very seriously.
“I am peripherally involved in the Critical Race Studies group on campus,” said Cooper Owens. “It is based out of the sociology department and is currently looking at issues such as: the election night racial incident, race parties at the Greek houses and other forms of racial microaggressions on campus.”
Cooper Owens is from West Virginia and calls for an outsider’s perspective.
“I think folks from here are little bit too close to things to be able to objectively look at what’s going on,” said Cooper Owens. “Quite often when discussing race, white people become defensive, black people become angry—that’s not a good foundation for a discussion, it gets mired in emotions and goes nowhere.”
Now student organizations like AASA and faculty and staff groups are seeking change.
“But the change doesn’t come quickly, at least painless change doesn’t come quickly. So we need be patient,” said Cooper Owens.<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/63920949″>cooper owens talks</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user16208621″>Yaeko Takada</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Bryan Cooper Owens speaks out about the need for more diversity on the Ole Miss campus.