Ole Miss could distance itself from donor over racist post

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The namesake of the University of Mississippi’s journalism school apologized Thursday for his Facebook that had photos of two black women in short dresses and suggested that the women exemplify problems that cause real estate values to fall.

University officials said they were considering removing Ed Meek’s name from the journalism school. And, one of the women who was put in Meek’s post without her knowledge said the post “reeks of racist ideology as well as misogyny.”

Mahoghany Jordan of Memphis, Tennessee, is studying computer science at the university in Oxford, Mississippi. In an article Thursday on the website of the student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian , Jordan said she dressed up and had fun with friends after a Saturday football game at Ole Miss. She said she received multiple notifications Wednesday that Meek used her photo on Facebook.

Meek led Ole Miss public relations for 37 years starting in 1964.

On Wednesday, he posted photos of two young black women without using their names, saying the pictures were taken on the town square in Oxford “at 2 a.m. after a ballgame.” Meek wrote: “A 3 percent decline in enrollment is nothing compared to what we will see if this continues … and real estate values will plummet as will tax revenues. We all share in the responsibility to protect the values we hold dear that have made Oxford and Ole Miss known nationally.”

Jordan wrote that Meek failed to criticize people who were fighting on campus or in a local bar or harassing LGBT people.

“As for Ed Meek: one should never use the physical appearance of a person as a measurement of their morality,” Jordan wrote. “I don’t need your apology. In fact I don’t need anything from the reciprocal guilt you feel after being called out for what you are. The two things that automatically put me at a disadvantage in our society, you’ll never completely understand.”

Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter called on Meek to apologize.

“While we all want to ensure a safe, family-friendly environment at the university and in Oxford, I must condemn the tone and content of Ed Meek’s post,” Vitter wrote on Facebook. “The photos in his post suggest an unjustified racial overtone that is highly offensive.”

Meek subsequently deleted his own post and wrote a new one late Wednesday: “I apologize to those offended by my post. My intent was to point out we have a problem in The Grove and on the Oxford Square.”

The Grove on the Ole Miss campus is a gathering spot for elaborate tailgate parties before football games.

The university’s Black Student Union said Meek’s original post implies African-American women cause real estate values to drop. “His statement has clear racial undertones that must be addressed,” the group said in a statement posted to Twitter.

Meek led Ole Miss public relations for 37 years, starting in 1964. A petition seeks to remove his name from the journalism school , which was named for him after he and his wife donated $5.3 million in 2009.

The university has struggled for decades to deal with its own history of troubled race relations. White mobs rioted on campus in the autumn of 1962 as James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss; military troops were called in and Meredith was escorted by federal marshals.

Mississippi’s population is about 38 percent black, and black students made up 12.7 percent of the Ole Miss enrollment in 2017. Current figures are not yet available.

In an effort to promote racial diversity in recent years, the school renamed a street that had been called Confederate Drive and installed plaques to provide historical background, including on a Confederate soldier statue that has stood for generations in a prominent spot on campus

In July 2017, the university announced it would put up signs acknowledging that some buildings on campus were built with slave labor. The university also announced then that it would remove the name of James K. Vardaman from a building. Vardaman, a white supremacist, was Mississippi’s governor from 1904 to 1908 and a U.S. senator from 1913 to 1919.

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This story has been corrected to show Ed Meek posted the photos and his comments to Facebook on Wednesday, not Saturday.

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