UM journalism donor Ed Meek under fire for social media posts

A Facebook post by Ed Meek, namesake for the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, went viral Wednesday afternoon for what some have deemed racist undertones.

The post apparently came as a response to a series of fistfights that took place on the Square and in The Grove last weekend, but Meek’s post featured two pictures of African-American women on a night out, seemingly unaware their photos had been taken.

The post read:

“On The Oxford Square Saturday Night. I hesitated until now to publish these pictures but I think it important that our community see what the camera is seeing at 2 a.m. after a ballgame. I hear there were 180 police working the weekend but of all the pictures late night, the fights and scenes, I have seen no police presence. Chief of Police Joey East is quoted in the Mississippian as saying police made 40 arrest [sic] and that there were fights in most venues.

Enough, Oxford and Ole Miss leaders, get on top of this before it is too late. A 3 percent decline in enrollment is nothing compared to what we will see if this continues… and real estate values will plummet as will tax revenue. We all share in the responsibility to protect the values we hold dear that have made Oxford and Ole Miss known nationally.”

The post generated more than 1,000 comments in four hours, with commenters calling Meek a racist and many asking, “What was he thinking?” Other commenters asked if Meek was attempting to imply that the women in the photos were prostitutes.

Several commenters in particular noted apparent one-sidedness, saying the women’s attire was no worse than that of white women on a night out or in The Grove.

“I’m confused… on Ole Miss game days, every other white female is dressed like this – especially if they are going out afterwards,” Twanna Gordon Phillips said. “So by you posting these two black girls and the assumption you are making, (it) only makes you sound racist.”

The post also caught the attention of Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey M. Vitter, who decried the post, saying it goes against everything the University stands for.

“While we all want to ensure a safe, family-friendly environment at the University and in Oxford, I must condemn the tone and content of Ed Meek’s post from earlier today,” Vitter said in the comment. “The photos in his post suggest an unjustified racial overtone that is highly offensive. Ed, I urge you to withdraw your comment and apologize to anyone offended.”

Several Meek School alumni offered their thoughts on the post in the comments, and called for the University to remove Meek’s name from the building.

Others took it upon themselves to tag national media outlets and blogs, including Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper 360 and The Shade Room.

“How were we drilled on journalism ethics in a school that’s named after a man clearly contradicting those values? This is painful,” Mia Sims, a UM graduate, wrote. “Please explain, with factual evidence, how these photos are connected to a decline in enrollment – how two women minding their own business are affecting that school.”

The administration of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media also released a statement via Facebook, saying Meek’s post was “highly offensive.” It was signed by Dean Will Norton and Assistant Deans Patricia Thompson, Debora Wenger, Scott Fiene and Jennifer Simmons.

“This post is in no way associated with or represents our school, our students or our faculty,” the statement read in part. “We are embarrassed by his actions.”

At approximately 7:30 p.m., Meek deleted his post, but not before it received nearly 2,000 comments and 1,000 shares.

One minute after the post was deleted, a Change.org petition to remove Meek’s name from the journalism school was announced.

At approximately 8 p.m., Meek posted an apology, saying, “I apologize to those offended by my post. My intent was to point out we have a problem in The Grove and on the Oxford Square.”

This article was originally published by The Oxford Eagle on September 20, 2018.

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