Ole Miss Chancellor Opens Investigation Into Reported Racist Gestures At Campus Protest

As previously reported by BLACK ENTERPRISE, Chancellor Glen Boyce, who oversees the University of Mississippi (commonly referred to as Ole Miss), expressed his intention to initiate an investigation into the behavior of students during a pro-Palestine demonstration on campus. Despite endorsements from Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and Rep. Mike Collins for the actions of counter-protesters, Boyce proceeded with the investigation.

As Mississippi Today reports, the protest marked the first protests of the Israeli offensive in Gaza in Mississippi since students at Columbia University set up an encampment in protest of their school’s funding of Israel. Initially, the pro-Palestine protest was separated from the hecklers by metal barricades, but the counter protestors found a way around the barricades. Eventually food was being tossed across the barricades and the university police force attempted to de-escalate the situation by escorting pro-Palestinian protestors away from the crowd of counter protestors that had gathered. 

Later, inside the School of Applied Sciences building, pro-Palestinian protestors were thanked by a Palestinian student, Jana, who told the group: “Hey guys, I know that what just happened was really intimidating, and it was a little scary, but I just want to say I’m so proud of you guys.”

Jana added, “This wasn’t going to happen in Oxford without all of you guys. Palestine was being heard. And I just want to thank you guys so much. I know that was such a big risk, but this is the most that people have ever thought for us, so don’t give up. I know that was really hard, but we need to keep fighting. This was just the start of it, okay?”

Although the school’s official position is that they have no ties to Israeli defense funding or defense contractors, protests at other universities have centered on a demand to divest from funding either of those entities. As CNN reports, most of the conversation about the Ole Miss protests revolves around a clip of Jaylin R. Smith, a 24-year-old Black student confronting counter protestors who heckled her, including one who appears to make monkey gestures in her direction. 

According to Ryan Spearman, a student at Ole Miss, Boyce condemned the actions of the counter protestors Spearman describes as racist, and Spearman insinuates in his post on Twitter/X that the wording of the email hints that one of the counter protestors will be investigated.

The NAACP has responded to Rep. Collins’ endorsement of the actions of the student counter protestors, calling for an investigation into Collins by Congressional leaders via a letter. “These actions conducted by a member of the House of Representatives, regardless of intent, legitimize and propagate racism and undermine the principles of equality and justice that our government is sworn to uphold.” The letter, sent to leaders on May 4, reads in part.

As the Daily Mississippian reports, Boyce issued a statement regarding the investigation on May 3. “From yesterday’s demonstration, university leaders are aware that some statements made were offensive, hurtful, and unacceptable, including actions that conveyed hostility and racist overtones. While student privacy laws prohibit us from commenting on any specific student, we have opened one student conduct investigation. We are working to determine whether more cases are warranted,” the statement reads. “To be clear, people who say horrible things to people because of who they are will not find shelter or comfort on this campus. All of us have a responsibility to take seriously our commitment to upholding a safe and welcoming campus environment.”

Xavier Black, a junior international studies major at Ole Miss, told the university newspaper that the history of student protests in America is that those who protest against wars are proven right by history. “There’s a lot of dissension towards this kind of movement. But as we’ve seen throughout history, time and time again, the student movement is never wrong,” Black told the Daily Mississippian. “Time and time again, anytime there’s a student protest, and you’re against it, you’re on the wrong side of history. So I would like to be on the right side.”

RELATED CONTENT: Congressman Applauds Heckling Of War Protestors At Ole Miss, Including Racial Taunting Black Woman With Monkey Gestures

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