Three "19-year-old white male freshmen from Georgia" at the University of Mississippi have been expelled from their fraternity, and the frat has been suspended from campus, after the trio reportedly hung a noose and Confederate-themed flag over the statue of a black civil rights icon.
The saga started two Sundays ago, when a statue of James Meredith on the Ole Miss campus was found with the noose and an old version of the Georgia state flag that contains the iconic Confederate battle insignia.
The racial desecration was especially poignant, given Meredith's fraught history with the university. He earned notoriety and death threats as the school's first African American student in 1962; Mississippi's segregationist governor at the time tried to prevent Meredith's enrollment, and the U.S. Department of Justice sent federal marshals to protect him as he moved onto the campus.
The three men who are suspected of leaving the noose and flag were members of Ole Miss' Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity chapter, whose national organization promptly booted them and suspended the school chapter pending further investigation. Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, are investigating the incident for criminal wrongdoing.
Local police say a $25,000 reward offered by the university's alumni association led to some actionable tips that helped identify the students. School disciplinary proceedings are being organized against at least two of the three men, but they stood up authorities who'd planned to meet with them last Thursday, and have told administrators through attorneys that they do not intend to cooperate with the investigation unless charges are filed.
The case is taking its toll on the university community. In the video above, a weary Daniel Jones, Ole Miss' chancellor, told CNN: "You have systemic racism in our country. We have it in this state, and we have it in this university—much less so than in years past, but there's systemic racism everywhere in the world. I wish that it weren't so."