Controversy at Ole Miss After a New Memorial to Civil Rights Is Replaced

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How should a university commemorate the civil rights movement, and its painful but pivotal role in it? Until this month, most people at the University of Mississippi thought the university had the answer nailed down. In the summer of 2002, five professional artists invited students, administrators, and local residents – some who had witnessed violence at Ole Miss in the 1960s – to share their thoughts as the artists waded through submissions for a memorial on campus. But now the winning design has been replaced by one that has come critics howling.

The installment that eventually won was praised by the judges and others as a beautiful metaphor of the struggles and promises of integrating higher education. It won unanimous approval from the judges, but was delayed in construction while donations were gathered. Then, this month, the artist whose design won got a call from Robert Khayat, the chancellor of Ole Miss, who told him that the plan did not fit the university’s needs, and that the university would use a new design from an architect who often does work on campus. Now, those involved with the effort that led to the original selection, which one of the judges called “the most comprehensive, inclusive effort I’ve ever been involved in,” are left upset and confused.

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