The state flag is no longer flying on any of the campuses of the University of Southern Mississippi.
USM President Rodney Bennett made the decision Wednesday to take down both the state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem in its upper left corner, and the university's flag. The American flag is now flying atop the three poles on the school's main campus in front of the administration building.
Jenny Tate, Gulf Park campus spokeswoman, said Wednesday the American flag is flying on all poles on the Long Beach campus.
Bennett made the call Wednesday morning to take the flags down and sent an email to USM students explaining his decision:
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"I have chosen to raise American flags on all University of Southern Mississippi flagpoles to remind the University community of what unites us. We have all chosen to work, study and live in a country in which debates like those around the state flag of Mississippi can take place and ideas can be civilly expressed and advanced. While I love the state of Mississippi, there is passionate disagreement about the current state flag on our campuses and in our communities. I am looking forward to a time when this debate is resolved and USM raises a flag that unites us."
The USM Student Government Association recently discussed taking down the state flag, but no vote was taken on the matter.
The University of Mississippi removed the state flag from its campus in Oxford on Monday after both student and faculty senates voted to remove it.
Gov. Phil Bryant, a USM alumnus, told the Associated Press on Tuesday he believes state universities should fly the state flag.
"I think that if you've got a publicly funded institution like that, they should be respectful of the people of the state," he said.
Bennett became the first black president of a predominantly white university in Mississippi when he was named to the post at USM in February 2013.