Ole Miss Chancellor Discusses Changes In Race Relations

Ole Miss has been making the national headlines lately, and it is not just because of their outstanding basketball team. You may recall last week, in a cliffhanger, the Rebels defeated Iona in an NCAA Tournament game. But it is what happened in the stands, that has been in the news.

In 1956, the Ole Miss Rebels were supposed to play Iona, but the game never happened. The Ole Miss team was pulled off the court when school officials say that Iona had a black player. 44 years later, Chancellor Robert Khayat asked that same man to sit with him at the Ole Miss-Iona game.

The Chancellor says he was surprised at the coverage that he received. The story aired on Good Morning America, CNN and ABC. Chancellor Khayat says he could not have been more pleased. He says it was quite a positive story, not only about Mississippi but about humanity. It was about people reaching out their hands in friendship to one another and saying nobody is perfect. He say we make mistakes, so let's forgive and move forward.

Khayat says because of what happened in 1956, and what happened last week, a special relationship has developed between the two schools that are many miles apart. Khayat says the President of Iona called him about it, and was very gracious. They had time to spend with the players, coaches and fans from Iona. So, he thinks it was a totally positive experience.

As an Ole Miss grad himself, Khayat knows full well it is a very different university today. 12% of the student body is black. It's a school with a black head basketball coach and a black student body president. He also understands it takes a long time to change people's perceptions. Khayat says perception tends to lag reality by many years and one of the things they work on every day is trying to get an accurate perception of the school out there, not only external, but internal.

By: Jeff Lawson