Ole Miss student senator faces calls for resignation after supporting state flag
A member of the student senate at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) is facing calls for his resignation over his support for the Mississippi state flag and his allegedly “homophobic” and “racist” tweets.
Mississippi’s flag, which incorporates the Confederate Battle flag, has been embroiled in controversy for several months, with many finding the flag deeply offensive and a symbol of racism. Allen Coon, a student senator who serves as the president of the Ole Miss Democrats and the school’s NAACP chapter, introduced a resolution “Requesting that the University of Mississippi Cease Flying the State Flag.”
The resolution passed Tuesday night, 33-15 with an abstention, according to the Clarion-Ledger.
Another senator, Andrew Soper, a junior in the Business school, has been fighting to keep the flag flying at the university. He started a change.org petition and contacted all ASB Senators via email urging them to support him and contact him with any questions or concerns they might have. Soper told Campus Reform that he included Coon on the email list in an effort in transparency.
The gesture appeared to go unappreciated by Coon as he tweeted out the email to his followers with the caption “@andrewsoper1 emailed me requesting that I oppose legislation that I authored(???)”
Senator Coon’s tweet was picked up by Sierra Mannie, an Ole Miss student and editor for the Daily Mississippian, who began tweeting at and about Soper. She accused him of being racist and started her own change.org petition to impeach him.
“With Andrew Soper's racist and homophobic behavior, it is clear that he is not fit to serve as a representative of the University of Mississippi,” she wrote in the petition.
On Twitter Mannie claimed that Soper should be impeached for his tweets on same-sex marriage, tweets supporting the Mississippi state flag, and his Soper’s use of the flag as his Twitter banner, all of which she views as evidence of racism and homophobia.
Soper believes that Mannie is attacking him for his political ideals as a conservative and religious beliefs as a Christian. He claims that when he asked a friend to contact Mannie on his behalf in order to discuss Mannie’s concerns away from the stage of social media, she called him “expletives unfit to publish.”
Mannie claims that she is “speaking solely from the perspective of a concerned student interested in holding her Associated Student Body accountable.”
Mannie did not respond to allegations from Twitter users that she personally attacked Soper for his political and religious beliefs.
In addition to the accusations leveled at Soper, Mannie also questioned the ability of John Brahan, the president of the Senate (and vice president of the ASB) to preside impartially over any impeachment trial involving one of his fraternity brothers.
Brahan responded by saying that although he and Soper are both members of Sigma Chi and friends, those facts do “not mean I am trying to protect him.”
On Twitter, Brahan pointed out that he does not have the ability to remove senators. In an interview with Campus Reform, he further explained that a petition is the first step toward removing a senator and the Senate would choose whether to try a Senator for trial.
Brahan noted to Campus Reform that Mannie had nowhere near the roughly the 3,500 signatures required to start the process of removal.
Soper says that he has the support of many leaders and around the state and has no plans to back down from the fight. He is currently working to gain 6,000 student signatures in support of the state flag with a petition of his own.
To Soper, the flag is a matter of respect—for the people and the state of Mississippi regardless of how any individual feels about it—and law; state law requires all government institutions to fly the flag.
Soper said he would be happy to endorse any state flag that the people and government of Mississippi endorse.
With regards to the impeachment petition, Soper maintains that he has done nothing to warrant impeachment, and that although everyone will not agree with his views on same-sex marriage or the state flag, those views are protected by free speech and are not based in racism or homophobia.
Soper also released a public response via his Twitter account (which has since gone private) restating his support for the flag and his commitment to serving his constituents in the business school, urging them to contact him and express their opinion on the flag.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Geedelman