Dear students, faculty and staff,
Last Thursday, the IHL board voted to relocate the confederate monument from the Circle to the cemetery on campus, in accordance with state law. This has been something I have advocated for since taking this role, and it is an important moment in the history of this institution.
Since that vote took place, there has been a lot of concern expressed about the cemetery plans. The concerns were largely prompted by a pair of computerized artist renderings that were part of our submission to the IHL, and I want to share this clarifying message to the university community about the plans. In fact, since the IHL Board of Trustees tabled our request in January 2020, I have been working diligently on this process and have accomplished the following:
- Provided the Board, as requested, an update on work done on the recommendations issued in the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Contextualization (CACHC) report,
- Communicated with Board members to update them and understand their concerns,
- Re-energized the Work group for the Cemetery Headstone Project on the markers in the cemetery to guide the completion of this recommendation,
- Worked with Facilities Planning to secure the construction company,
- Hired an artist to develop renderings to show that the cemetery is a suitable location, and
- Submitted the Board agenda item.
In the effort to expedite the resubmission of our proposal in order to get the monument relocated before the Fall 2020 semester begins, I did not take the time to share with our community our progress in moving the project forward. This has brought about concerns that need to be addressed.
1. Artist’s Rendering
I am aware of the concerns about the artistic renderings that were developed and attached to the IHL submission. I understand your concerns. The drawings illustrate an artist’s interpretation of the plans submitted by the university to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees, which have been publicly available online since August 2019.
The intent in developing renderings was to give a visual perspective of the cemetery as a suitable location for the monument. In listening to the concerns being expressed, there are specific physical aspects of the renderings that need clarifying.
- Placement of the monument on the right side of the path
- The original plans had the monument on the left side of the path. The renderings show it on the right side of the path, where it will be located.
- There will not be a grouted, brick paver sidewalk
- It is clear in all plans that the sidewalk will be stamped-and-stained concrete to the specifications necessary for it to be ADA-compliant.
- There is no work to be done on the cemetery wall
- There is not a bench in the submitted construction plan
- The bench depicted in the artist rendering is not in the plan and will not be included in the project.
- Landscaping is the artist’s interpretation
- Landscaping will be determined by our landscaping department.
- All existing trees, some of which are not depicted in the rendering, will remain.
- Lighting fixtures shown in the rendering
- All plans call for in-ground safety lighting necessary to light the pathway and allow security cameras (called for in the plans) to operate effectively.
- The state historical marker at the entrance of the cemetery will be moved to accommodate the path.
2. Cemetery markers
One of the changes to the original plan that is accurately reflected in the artist’s rendering is the addition of headstones to the cemetery. After a review of the CACHC recommendation concerning the placement of headstones and additional conversations with various individuals, it was clear that there were wide and varying viewpoints on how to move this recommendation forward. Therefore, I re-convened the Work Group for the Cemetery Headstone Project that evaluated the issue, deliberated on the best course of action, and subsequently recommended placing them in the cemetery. I am awaiting determination of the final configuration of the exact placement of the headstones from the Department of Facilities Planning.
3. Work Group for the Troops Memorial
I am reconvening the Work Group for the Troops Memorial that was established previously to develop a plan for the second part of that CACHC’s recommendation—the memorial for the U.S. Black Troops from Lafayette County that fought for the Union Army to be placed in an appropriate location on campus. Just as I was committed to seeing the monument relocated from the center of campus, I am just as committed to ensuring that the U.S. Black Troops from Lafayette County are recognized properly.
4. Suggestion that governing bodies endorsed the report
The IHL submission states, “The proposed plan has received written endorsement from various campus constituencies.” While those constituencies listed in the submission did approve the plan to relocate the monument to the cemetery, the placement of this statement in the document implies approval of the plan to add headstones to the cemetery, which was not addressed or approved by those groups. This is clearly an error and I will clarify this with the Board of Trustees.
This is a historic accomplishment for our campus, and I am saddened that my decision to move forward with the artist’s renderings is jeopardizing the excitement we have over the monument being relocated. I recognize the frustration with the process, but my intentions were to expedite the process to get the outcome that our campus shared governance leaders and external stakeholders fought so hard to accomplish.
Please know that the process of the monument’s removal from the Circle is one I have been committed to since I arrived on campus. I hope you will see that as we begin to quickly take the steps necessary to make that happen.