Inside Higher Ed

No Tolerance for Intolerance

Southern universities are calling for the removal of Confederate flags and other racist symbols.

The flag of Mississippi.
The Mississippi state flag. 

Image by Filip Bjorkman/Shutterstock

This article originally appeared in Inside Higher Ed.

Debate over Confederate symbols continues to intensify in Southern states, with public universities in the middle of the controversy in South Carolina, Texas, and Mississippi. University leaders are speaking out against the use of Confederate symbols—although not always fast enough to satisfy some students and civil rights leaders.

Late Tuesday, the board of the Citadel voted to ask the South Carolina General Assembly to amend a state law so that the university can remove a Confederate naval flag from a place of honor in the chapel. A law enacted in 2000, the South Carolina Heritage Act, states that “any monument, marker, memorial, school, or street erected or named in honor of the Confederacy or the civil rights movement located on any municipal, county or state property shall not be removed, changed or renamed without the enactment of a joint resolution by a two-thirds vote of the membership of each house of the General Assembly approving same.”


Until the Citadel board voted, 9–3, to ask that the law be amended, the university had refused to endorse any move of the flag, as some civil rights leaders have sought. The Citadel’s historic ties to the Confederacy are significant; Citadel officers helped attack Fort Sumter. While there are Confederate flags in museum displays at the Citadel, it is the flag in a place of honor in the chapel that has been controversial.

John W. Rosa, president of the Citadel, issued this statement after the board vote: “We pride ourselves on our core values of honor, duty and respect. Moving the Naval Jack to another location is consistent with these values and is a model to all of the principled leadership we seek to instill in our cadets and students. It also promotes unity on our campus, in our community and across our state during this time of healing.”


Amid growing debate at the University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere over Confederate statues and symbolism, three statues were vandalized on campus this week, Reuters reported. The statues are of the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and a Texas Confederate commander, Albert Sidney Johnston.


The phrase “Black Lives Matter” was painted on each statue, and someone also wrote “Dump the Chumps” on the Davis statue. The vandalism comes amid calls for the university to remove the statue of Davis. UT Austin’s president, Gregory L. Fenves, announced Tuesday that a committee will be formed to advise him on the Davis statue issue.

On Tuesday, Morris H. Stocks, interim chancellor of the University of Mississippi, joined those calling on the state to change its flag to remove the Confederate battle flag from one corner. The university has long debated its own Confederate history and symbols and has moved away from much of it, including use of the flag.

“The University of Mississippi community came to the realization years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values such as civility and respect for others,” Stocks said. “Since that time, we have become a stronger and better university. We join other leaders in our state who are calling for a change in the state flag.”