Meyers, Greg Jamison. “Defilement of Civil Rights Statue at University of Northern Mississippi Shows Racists Up to Their Old Tricks Again.” Hopewell Democrat-Tribune 2 Jun. 2013, University ed.: A1+.

The defilement of a civil rights statue on the University of Northern Mississippi campus has drawn outrage, condemnation, and concern from a wide variety of campus figures. The statue, depicting the first African-American student admitted to the university in 1966, was found vandalized by university janitorial staff in the course of their morning duties, with the face completely covered by bird excrement.

The University of Northern Mississippi became infamous during the desegregation battles of the 1960s as the very last state-funded school to admit an African-American student following the integration of major schools like the University of Mississippi (October 1962), Mississippi State University (July 1965), and what became the University of Southern Mississippi (September 1965). While the integration of the university in mid-1966 was neither the bloodbath of UM or the non-event of MSU, there was still extensive rioting and protest marches, national attention, and strong local opposition.

“The bird that vandalized this statue does not represent the values of the faculty, staff, and students of UNM as a whole,” said university president Brody in a statement. “We strongly condemn the actions of a lone individual bird in setting back issues of tolerance and diversity here.”

For many observers, though, the incident represents the latest in a troubling pattern. “Clearly, there are repressed issues deep in the university’s psyche at work here,” said Dr. Janice Soderquist-Mmbathu, vice-chair of Diversity Studies at Southern Michigan University. “UNM may have 45% non-white enrollment and generous scholarships for minority students, but ugly feelings such as those espoused by this bird in defiling the statue clearly show that there is a very, very, very long way to go.”

In response to the anonymous bird’s attack on the statue, which many have described as a hate crime, President Brody has announced the formation of a task force to investigate the incident. “Some have said that the action in question were not intended as racist,” his statement continued, “but in light of recent tweets expressing sentiments like ‘LOL’ and ‘ROTFLMAO’ about the event, we can only conclude that this must be treated with deadly, deadly seriousness.”

“It’s Mississippi, what do you expect?” said Andrew Cullingdonham, a Southern Michigan student interviewed by the Democrat-Tribune. “Everything they do is racist, no matter how much they try to hide it. The bird is only doing what everyone wants to do. I don’t care how many investigations they do or how quickly the statue is cleaned up.”

At press time, UNM had announced a full investigation, a Diversity Days festival, a visit by Winnie Mandela, a much larger statue protected by a laser grid, a moment of silence campuswide, a candlelight vigil, and a statewide bird education initiative in addition to the committee mentioned by President Brody. Critics were quick to call these moves “insubstantial,” “window dressing,” and “proof that the administration of UNM has more in common with the offending bird than it would like to be generally known.”

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