University of Mississippi removes state flag

In this photo taken June 23, 2015, the Mississippi state flag is unfurled against the front of the Governor's Mansion in Jackson, Miss.

In this photo taken June 23, 2015, the Mississippi state flag is unfurled against the front of the Governor's Mansion in Jackson, Miss.  (AP)

The University of Mississippi took down the state flag from campus on Monday morning, heeding calls from students and administrators who said the inclusion of the Confederate symbol in one portion of the flag made it unfit to fly.

The flag, which was lowered and furled by the UM Police Department, is slated to be preserved in the University Archives, alongside student and faculty resolutions calling for its removal, according to a University statement issued on Monday.

“The University of Mississippi community came to the realization years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values, such as civility and respect for others,” Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks said in the statement. “Since that time, we have become a stronger and better university. We join other leaders in our state who are calling for a change in the state flag.”

The student senate voted 33-15-1 to take the flag down on Oct. 20 and, six days later, the banner came down, following similar recommendations from the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Student Council and the Staff Council.

More than 200 people took part in a remove-the-flag rally Oct. 16 on the Oxford campus. It was sponsored by the university chapter of the NAACP.

The University of Mississippi has struggled with Old South symbolism for decades. In 1962, deadly riots broke out when James Meredith was enrolled as the first black student, under court order. Ole Miss administrators have tried to distance the school from Confederate symbols. Sports teams are still called the Rebels, but the university several years ago retired the Colonel Rebel mascot -- a white-haired old man some thought resembled a plantation owner. The university also banned sticks in the football stadium nearly 20 years ago, which eliminated most Confederate battle flags that fans carried.

“As Mississippi’s flagship university, we have a deep love and respect for our state,” Stocks said. “Because the flag remains Mississippi’s official banner, this was a hard decision. I understand the flag represents tradition and honor to some. But to others, the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued. That is why the university faculty, staff and leadership have united behind this student-led initiative.”

Since 1894, the Mississippi state flag has featured the Confederate insignia in the upper left quadrant. Three thick strips of blue, white and red, from top to bottom, compose the remainder of the flag. Residents chose to keep the flag during a 2001 statewide vote.

The Confederate flag became a contentious public issue following the shooting deaths of several black parishioners at a historic South Carolina church during an allegedly racially-motivated incident in June. The alleged shooter was pictured in online profiles posing with the Confederate flag, images which, in part, led to new calls for the symbol to be removed from various public locations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.