Education

Mississippi Baits Public Colleges With Tax Exemption If They Fly State Flag

A Mississippi Senate bill would grant two public colleges a tax exemption if they fly the state flag, which is currently flown by none of the eight public colleges because it features the Confederate battle flag.

Senate Bill 2509 would exempt the “lands and property” of both the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and Mississippi State University (MSU) from state, county and municipal taxes, as well as buildings and improvements that give “affordable board” to students, according to Campus Reform.

Mississippi GOP Rep. William Shirley successfully added an amendment to the bill stating that, in order to receive the exemption, the universities “must prominently display and fly the state flag each day of the year.”

The two universities addressed by the bill have previously issued statements on the state flag.

“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,” President Rodney Bennett of USM said. “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.”

“Since 2001, Mississippi State University’s Faculty Senate, MSU’s Student Association governing bodies and MSU’s administration have supported changing Mississippi’s state flag,” remarked Sid Salter, spokesman for MSU, as reported by The Commercial Appeal. “Despite that institutional support, the voters of Mississippi did not approve the 2001 referendum effort to change the state flag.”

“Requests were made recently to replace the Mississippi flag in several locations with a larger American flag to better conform to our very large American flag which flies over the Drill Field (MSU’s primary campus green space), and Dr. Keenum [MSU’s president] approved those requests.”

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