There are calls to rename the University of Mississippi journalism school for Ida B. Wells after the prominent university donor for whom it was named made a problematic Facebook post that has been called out for being racist.
The Meek School of Journalism and New Media was named after Ed Meek after he and his wife donated $5.3 million to the school in 2009, the Associated Press reports.
However, last month on Sept. 19, Meek sparked outrage with a Facebook post about late-night activity on the Square in Oxford, featuring pictures of two Black woman, with the caption, “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. We all share in the responsibility to protect the values we hold dear that have made Oxford and Ole Miss known nationally.”
Naturally, the comment drew backlash, and Meek apologized for his post, but the damage was done. Now Meek has asked that his name be removed from the school and many are calling for the building to be renamed after famed black journalist and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
“Removing Ed Meek’s name from the School is a necessary, but basic, step in a much longer process of reparative justice,” a letter from 62 Ole Miss professors, instructors and grad students read. “Our university must firmly stand for its stated values of intellectual excellence, non-discrimination and inclusion and support for all its students.”
The letter suggested that Wells-Barnett name be put up instead. Additionally, the letter signees suggested that the university create scholarships for Black women, and even that it start a Reparative Justice Committee that would work to remove the statue of a Confederate solider from campus grounds.
On top of it all, Michelle Duster, an award-winning author and educator and Wells-Barnett’s great-granddaughter, thinks that renaming Ole Miss’ journalism school is a great idea.
Wrote Duster in a statement on her website:
It would be a fitting honor for the journalism school at the University of Mississippi to be renamed after my great-grandmother Ida B. Wells. She was a native Mississippian who was a trailblazer in the field. She used investigative journalism as a tool to expose injustice, inequality, and domestic terrorism in a way that challenged the power structure of our country. Despite the fact that she faced great danger and her printing press was destroyed, she never backed down from documenting facts and telling the truth. Her contribution to journalism is immeasurable and should be an inspiration and model for all who study the field.
However, as the AP notes, the ultimate decision about whether or not Meek’s name will be booted will be made by the state College Board.