Ole Miss frat suspended over noose on statue of black student

Ole Miss frat Sigma Phi Epsilon was suspended at the University of Mississippi. The frat expelled three students suspected of putting a noose around the statue of James Meredith, the first black student at Ole Miss.

A fraternity chapter at the University of Mississippi was indefinitely suspended Friday by its national organization and three of its freshman members were kicked out because of their suspected involvement in hanging a noose on a statue of James Meredith, the first black student to enroll in the then all-white college.

In a statement, Sigma Phi Epsilon said it suspended the Alpha Chapter at the university and the chapter voted to expel all three men and turn over their identities to investigators.

Police on Sunday found a noose tied around the neck of the statue, along with an old Georgia flag with a Confederate battle emblem in its design, which has since been updated to exclude the emblem.

When Meredith tried to enter Ole Miss in fall 1962, Mississippi's governor tried to stop him. That led to violence on the Oxford campus.

U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent 500 U.S. marshals to take control and days later, Meredith was allowed in the school. Though he faced harassment, he graduated with a degree in political science.

The FBI said Friday it planned to expand the vandalism investigation for potential violations of federal law.

"It is embarrassing that these men had previously identified with our fraternity," said Brian C. Warren Jr., CEO of Sigma Phi Epsilon. "SigEp as a national fraternity has championed racial equality and issues on diversity since 1959 when it became the first national fraternity to invite members of all races, creeds and religions to join its membership."

Warren said the fraternity will conduct a review to ensure that members' values align with those espoused by the organization. "We won't allow the actions of a few men to undermine the more than five decades of leadership this fraternity has demonstrated in the fight for racial equality and diversity on our college campuses," he said.

The university tried Friday to question three white students in connection with the vandalism but their attorneys would not allow that to happen without arrest warrants. The three have not been identified.

University spokesman Danny Blanton said Friday the school's findings have been turned over to the district attorney's office. Blanton said the university will also proceed with internal disciplinary action through a judicial panel that consists of both faculty and students.

The university is satisfied that the three students under investigation are responsible for the statue's desecration, Blanton said.

The Ole Miss Alumni Association is offering at $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. University Police Department Chief Calvin Sellers said the reward offer gave police some good leads in the case.

Blanton said it's not yet clear who might share in the reward.

District Attorney Ben Creekmore did not immediately respond to a message left Friday by The Associated Press. However, he told WMC-TV in Memphis that criminal charges would be difficult.

Creekmore said investigators and prosecutors have looked into several misdemeanors, but he said criminal charges were unlikely by his office because the statue was not physically damaged, and the suspects did not appear to be trespassing.

He said federal investigators could opt to bring charges if they saw fit. Creekmore said if new information comes to light, his office could revisit the issue.

Blanton said it's up to state and federal authorities to press criminal charges, but "obviously, since we've seen who is responsible, we want to take swift and decisive action.

"What we want to do is to show this type action can't take place on this campus. We want to demonstrate that we will not tolerate this type behavior," he said.

Ole Miss will move forward "as soon as possible" with discipline through the university's student judicial process. That panel, which consists of both faculty and students, could choose sanctions including dismissal and barring the three from campus, Blanton said.

The fact that the students won't talk to administrators is disappointing, he added.

"We certainly wish they would be forthright and discuss this matter so that we can get to the bottom of it. We want to hear their side. We want to know not just what happened, but why they did it. We want to open a dialogue," he said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Summary
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.