Among its core values, the University of Mississippi lists promoting "inclusiveness in its student body, faculty and staff" and requiring "respect for all individuals and groups."
In defense of those values, Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones asked the university's alumni association last week to offer a $25,000 reward to identify those responsible for vandalizing the James Meredith statue on the Oxford campus.
We commend the alumni association for granting Jones' request.
Meredith was the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss. On the morning of Feb. 16, a noose and an old state flag of Georgia were found hanging around the neck of the statue. Until 2001, Georgia's state flag included an even larger version of the Confederate battle flag than the one that still occupies the canton of the Mississippi state flag.
The symbolism employed by the vandals could hardly have been more insensitive and insulting.
An investigation by campus police has focused on two 19-year-old white male freshmen from Georgia. They have not been named because they have not been charged.
They have, however, been expelled from their fraternity, along with a third student from Georgia. And the fraternity itself has been placed on suspension by the national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization.
The official investigation continues. And if criminal charges are justified, we trust they will be filed.
But long after this process has concluded, the damage done by these two or three miscreants will linger.
That is why we are encouraged to see the immediate and impressive steps the university community took to identify those responsible and hold them accountable.
There must be zero tolerance for such behavior, whether it is a consequence of stupidity or hatred.
As Chancellor Jones put it: "These individuals chose our university's most visible symbol of unity and educational accessibility to express their disagreement with our values. Their ideas have no place here, and our response will be an even greater commitment to promoting the values that are engraved on the statue -- Courage, Knowledge, Opportunity and Perseverance."
This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board,which consists of President-Publisher Glen Nardi,Vice President and Executive Editor Stan Tiner,Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Flora S. Point,Audience and Human Resources Director Wanda Howell,Marketing and Interactive Director John McFarland and Associate Editor Tony Biffle. Opinions expressed by columnists, cartoonists and letter writers are their own.