Student petition defends Ole Miss senator against racism charges

A student senator at Ole Miss faced calls for resignation after opposing a measure to remove the state flag from campus, but a new counter-petition has already garnered even more support.

Student senator Andrew Soper became embroiled in the controversy surrounding whether Ole Miss should continue to fly the Mississippi state flag—which features a Confederate battle flag in one corner—after starting a now-defunct petition and emailing fellow senators to urge opposition to a resolution calling on the school to remove the flag.

As reported by Campus Reform, Sierra Mannie, an Ole Miss student and the editor of student newspaper The Daily Mississippian, determined that Soper’s position was racist, and launched a petition calling on the student government to impeach him.

“Andrew Soper … publicly expresses and sympathizes with racist and homophobic sentiments,” the petition alleges, though it neglects to specify which of his statements provoked the claim. Nonetheless, it then goes on to say that, “[w]ith 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 as a member of the Associated Student Body Senate.”

Tweets sent by Mannie provide further context regarding her complaints against Soper, specifying tweets he has sent regarding same-sex marriage and removal of the state flag, as well as his use of the flag as his Twitter banner, as the basis for her charges.

As of Tuesday morning, the impeachment petition had collected 181 signatures, just 19 short of its goal of 200. Senate president John Brahan, however, told Campus Reform last week that the first step in impeaching a senator requires a petition with at least 3,500 signatures.

Not only is the petition well short of that hurdle after three weeks in circulation, its support has already been eclipsed by a counter-petition started Monday, which has garnered over 400 signatures.

“It is troubling … that the creator of the impeachment petition does not include evidence of Mr. Soper’s words or conduct warranting such a serious allegation,” the counter-petition states. “Equally troubling is the possibility that, due to the very emotionally charged issues being discussed on campus right now, Mr. Soper’s character is being attacked because he (a) espouses a differing viewpoint from those that are calling for his impeachment, and (b) has been vocal in expressing his opinions.”

Soper’s defenders acknowledge that the miniscule support the impeachment petition has received makes it unlikely that any action will be taken, but explain that the counter-petition is intended to serve as “a declaration that the Ole Miss student body endorses the expression of differing, non-hate speech viewpoints—without risk of consequence, retaliation, or slander—on our campus.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @FrickePete