Trustees of the state College Board voted unanimously Thursday to strip Ed Meek’s name from the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The academic unit is now known just as the School of Journalism and New Media, without a namesake.
It was not immediately clear how soon the letters of his name would be physically removed from the outside of the red-brick journalism building on the Oxford campus.
Meek apologized and requested his name be removed days after his Sept. 19 Facebook post of two black women in short dresses. He suggested they exemplified problems that threatened the local economy.
“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,” Meek wrote. “We all share in the responsibility to protect the values we hold dear that have made Oxford and Ole Miss known nationally.”
Meek led Ole Miss public relations for 37 years, starting in 1964, and has had other publishing businesses. The school was named for Meek after he and his wife donated $5.3 million in 2009.
His Facebook post came in the aftermath of a months-long controversy over efforts to limit underage drinking in Oxford. Some opponents said versions of those regulations were unfairly aimed at a downtown music hall that sometimes hosts performers popular among African-Americans.
The women pictured in Meek’s post were Ole Miss students who said they dressed up after a football game to go out and have fun with friends. Both called his post demeaning and offensive. One of the women, computer science major Mahoghany Jordan of Memphis, Tennessee, wrote to the student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian, that Meek’s post “reeks of racist ideology as well as misogyny.”
“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 condemned Meek’s Facebook post within hours. The Ole Miss journalism faculty denounced Meek’s post as “highly offensive” and embarrassing. Three academic councils voted in favor of removing his name from the journalism school, and Vitter recommended that change to the state College Board. Trustees voted for the change Thursday without additional debate.
Jim Zook, associate vice chancellor for strategic communications and marketing, said in a statement Thursday that the College Board vote “marks the end of what has been a difficult process for the university and all involved, but it does not change the fact that Dr. Meek and his family built a tremendous legacy of significant contributions to the university.”
Meek has a doctoral degree in mass communications.
Some professors have suggested that the university should rename the journalism school for the late African-American reporter and editor Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Born a slave in Mississippi in 1862, she went on to crusade against lynching as a reporter and editor in nearby Memphis, Tennessee. She helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and pushed for women’s right to vote. Wells-Barnett died in 1931 in Chicago.
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