President’s Statement Regarding the Mississippi Flag

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Statement Regarding the Mississippi Flag

William N. LaForge, President, Delta State University

November 3, 2016

Today, I am announcing that Delta State University has lowered the flag of the State of Mississippi, and will retire it to the University Archives.

The discussion about the Mississippi flag on the Delta State campus has continued for well over a year.  The conversation increased this fall when the remaining public universities lowered their flags.

I wish to make it clear that this university is making an institutional decision on this issue because the state government has declined to change the flag.  This is a painful decision in many respects because this is a highly charged emotional issue for many people.  The University finds itself in the untenable position of making a decision that will disappoint some, no matter the outcome.  But in the absence of state action, we are making a decision that I believe is right and just on all levels.

In the spirit of open academic discussion, our various university constituencies — especially our students, faculty, and staff — have given thoughtful consideration to this issue.  As expected, there are differences of opinion and divergent viewpoints. However, my Cabinet and I have carefully weighed the input from all quarters, and it is now my responsibility to speak for the University on this matter.

The objectionable portion of the state flag — the stars and bars — presents a polarizing symbol that is a barrier to progress and improved understanding of our state, our university, and our people.  Delta State recently completed a visioning process, during which we set a course of excellence for the university’s future.  Included in our visioning principles are a number of core values that we promote and embrace, including civility, respect for all, diversity, inclusion, fairness, hospitality, and a welcoming environment that is conducive to the success of our students, faculty, and staff.  We believe that continuing to fly the state flag — with its divisive symbol that sends a confusing message, at best, and that has increasingly become a distraction to our mission — is contrary to our core values and to an accurate understanding of who we are and what we stand for as a university.

In 2015, the University announced its strong support for the adoption of a new flag by the State of Mississippi that would be a symbol of unity rather than one of divisiveness.  But, that change, unfortunately, has not occurred. So, today, I renew Delta State’s support and call for that change.

While taking the flag down is a symbolic act, its removal, nevertheless, underscores the numerous positive things we do on this campus to advance inclusiveness, fairness, and transparency in our various enterprises.

As the state’s most racially diverse university, Delta State is proud of its multicultural heritage and identity.  We are leading conversations and programs of action on the important topics of race relations, the Delta Blues, international business, educational advancement, scientific research, and community engagement — most notably through our signature conferences on those themes and through our outstanding academic programs. Those who study, teach, and work on this campus, as well as those who visit Delta State from around the country and the world — especially our record number of international students — deserve to know that our welcoming community and commitment to inclusiveness are not encumbered by an outdated symbol in the state flag.  And, after a 15-year ban by the NCAA, Delta State University deserves the opportunity to host swimming and other athletic championships that are currently not allowed because of the design of the state flag.

As a public institution of higher learning, Delta State continues to honor and respect its relationship with the people and state that support this university.  That will not change merely because we choose to join our seven sister universities in solidarity in lowering a flag that contains an antiquated symbol that is offensive to so many, and that public universities are not required by law to fly.  Delta State will demonstrate its respect for the state by continuing to inspire its students and educate new generations of thinkers and leaders who will invest in this state’s future.

I am grateful to the Delta State community for engaging in a deliberate, thoughtful, and sometimes difficult conversation about the flag.  It is now time for us to turn our full attention to the more serious matters of teaching, learning, and service at a university that is working hard to guide and educate our students, while also helping to provide vision for the future of the Mississippi Delta and our state.

In a recent court decision involving a legal challenge to the state flag, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves astutely wrote: “At times there is something noble in standing alone.  This is not one of those times.  The Confederate battle emblem has no place in shaping a New Mississippi, and is better left retired to history.”

In sum, Delta State’s decision to take down the Mississippi flag signals this university’s opposition to the design of the current flag, and sends the message to our state leadership that the time for a new, unifying state flag is long overdue. We look forward to raising a state flag that will represent the New Mississippi.  However, until that new flag becomes available, and as an added measure of respect for the state, Delta State will fly the state’s bicentennial banner that was recently unveiled by the Mississippi Economic Council.

Taking down the state flag on this campus is the right thing to do, and it is in the best interest of Delta State University because we are working to help shape the New Mississippi.

Experience the exhilarating feats of Parsons Dance Company at the Bologna Performing Arts Center on Nov. 9-10.

BPAC to host NYC’s Parsons Dance

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New York City’s Parsons Dance Company comes to the Bologna Performing Arts Center Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Parsons Dance, a modern dance company, is noted for its contemporary, athletic movements and high-energy ensemble performances. Created in 1985 by artistic director David Parsons, and two-time TONY Award winning lighting designer Howell Binkley (for Jersey Boys in 2006 and Hamilton in 2016), the event promises to entertain, challenge, and educate audience members.

The Bologna Center is thrilled to host the internationally renowned group on both Nov. 9-10.

In addition to their public performance on Nov. 10, the company will also present a shortened version of their evening program for K-12 students on Nov. 9 at 11 a.m. Immediately following both performances, dance members will participate in a Q&A session with audience members. The company will also lead two masterclasses in the afternoon on Nov. 9 for dance students ages four and up. Limited space is available, and interested students are encouraged to call 662-846-4844 for more information and to sign up for the free masterclass.

Tickets are available for both performances. For more information, visit www.bolognapac.com or call the Ticket Office at 662-846-4626.

The Parsons Dance performance and residency activities are funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mississippi Arts Commission.

Annual holiday giving has begun at Delta State with the DSU Feed-A-Family and DSU Toy Drive.

Holiday giving begins at Delta State

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The season of giving has already begun at Delta State with its two main holiday gifting campaigns getting underway.

Each year, Delta State’s Administrative Staff Council organizes the DSU Feed-A-Family Food Drive before Thanksgiving and the DSU Toy Drive for children from infancy to 10-years-old during the Christmas season.

The DSU Feed-A-Family program benefits staff and community members each holiday season by encouraging departments across campus to donate non-perishable items to help complete bags that provide a Thanksgiving meal to families in need.

Campus volunteers help sort, pack and deliver these items.

“Feed-A-Family is as a way to give back to the DSU family and community,” said Rhonda Loper, program coordinator. “Without the generosity of the DSU staff, faculty and students, we would bot have been able to provide nearly 100 bags of food last year.”

Departments are encouraged to begin collecting donations in their respective offices, which will be collected now through Nov. 16. Pickups will be available upon request Nov. 14-16.

Loper said community groups and churches have also signed up this year to contribute to the food and toy drives.

The annual DSU Toy Drive has also been a mainstay at Delta State during the holidays. Collection of toys will begin Nov. 28 and run through Dec. 15

Unwrapped gifts are sought for children from infancy to 10-years-old and will be donated to youth identified by the Bolivar County Family and Children’s Services.

To take part in the toy drive, bring donations to bring donations to the Registrar’s office in Kent Wyatt Hall.

For more information about DSU Feed-a-Family or the DSU Toy Drive, contact Loper at rloper@deltastate.edu or 662-846-4041.

Delta State’s Staff Council serves as a liaison between the administration and the staff to provide a formal process for staff to discuss issues involving university policies and procedures, and to forward ideas, recommendations and options to the president.

Students Christine Beck (left to right), Danielle Husley and professor Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding, recently presented at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Delegation presents at vertebrate paleontology conference

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Delta State University environmental science students and professors recently presented two research posters at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah on Oct. 25-29.

Students Christine Beck and Danielle Husley co-authored a research poster with biology professors Dr. Nina Baghai-Riding and Dr. Eric Blackwell titled “Paleocommunity of Late Pleistocene Megafauna found along the Lower Mississippi River Delta.”

The poster focused on ice age animals that lived in the Mississippi Delta about 12,000 years ago, including bison, mastodons, mammoths, great short-faced bear, ground sloths, ice age beaver, musk ox and more.

Dr. Judy Massare, professor of paleontology and geologist at Suny College at Brockport, New York encouraged Husely and Beck to publish the work in a respectable scientific journal. Additionally, the students became exposed to new morphological and ecological discoveries about fossil reptiles, mammals and amphibians, learned about new techniques including photogrammetry and basic scientific illustration in Adobe Photoshop, and networked with other students and scientists.

Baghai-Riding also co-authored a poster with her colleague Dr. Carol Hotton associated with the Natural Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Department of Paleobiology in Washington D.C. Their work was titled “Palynology of the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation: new insights into floristics, paleoclimate, phytogeography, and tetrapod herbivory.”

Learn more about environmental science opportunities at Delta State by visiting http://www.deltastate.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/biological-and-physical-sciences/.

Dean Jeff Slagell is the recipient of the 2016 Outstanding Achievement Award from the Mississippi Library Association.

Slagell honored with Outstanding Achievement Award

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Jeff Slagell, Dean of Library Services at Delta State University, has been recognized with the 2016 Outstanding Achievement Award from the Mississippi Library Association.

The award is given by the MLA to a librarian who has contributed to the permanent improvement of library service; made significant contributions to professional literature; and provided outstanding service to his/her community or institution.

Melissa Dennis, Outreach & Instruction librarian at the University of Mississippi, nominated Slagell.

“It’s always satisfying to be recognized by your colleagues,” said Slagell. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with many talented librarians across the state and have benefited from those relationships, both personally and professionally.”

“Our profession is unique in that on an almost daily basis, you can see the impact that our resources and services have on people in a tangible way,” he added. “You know you’re making a difference. That’s gratifying for all of us here at Delta State.”

Slagell has dedicated the last 18 years of his career serving the students, faculty, staff and community at the Roberts-LaForge library. As dean, he manages the library, Charles W. Capps Jr. Archives and Museum, and the Instructional Resources Center.

His areas of expertise include academic library administration, budgets, accreditation, assessment, and conference coordination.

Slagell has been a speaker and supporter for MLA initiatives for over a decade. He has served the roles of president, vice president, past president, ALA councilor and ACRL chair.

“Jeff is amazing at supporting others but doesn’t do the best job promoting himself,” said Dennis. “I felt like it was about time someone bragged on the way he has lifted up so many of us. He has impacted the community in so many ways.”

“Jeff’s selfless compassion for others has not only allowed him to be a great librarian, but has also contributed to his influence on our state by serving as a leader, mentor, advisor, activist, listener, teacher and friend,” she added.

Dr. Charles McAdams, Delta State provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said Slagell is extremely worthy of the recognition.

“Dean Slagell is very deserving of this award from the Mississippi Library Association,” said McAdams. “He operates a student-focused, service-orientated, library with extremely limited resources. Regardless, he continues to ‘make things happen’ in the library, and we all owe Dean Slagell a debt of gratitude for what he does for students, faculty, staff and the community. I am pleased for him that his statewide professional organization has chosen to reward him in this manner.”

Learn more about the Mississippi Library Association at http://www.misslib.org.