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An open letter to Southern Miss President Martha Saunders

Racism at the University of Southern Mississippi

Kansas State played the University of Southern Mississippi during the NCAA men's basketball championship series on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.

A chant started during the foul shots being taken by Angel Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez is a US citizen, born in Puerto Rico who attended high school in Florida.

Members of the Southern Miss traveling band began to chant "Where's your green card?" loud enough that it was picked up by television cameras.

Following the event, CBS Sports also reported that some members of the band asked members of the media if they heard the chant.

Southern Miss President Martha Saunders released the following statement on her official blog apologizing to Rodriguez.

"We deeply regret the remarks made by a few students at today's game. The words of these individuals do not represent the sentiments of our pep band, athletic department or university. We apologize to Mr. Rodriguez and will take quick and appropriate disciplinary action against the students involved in this isolated incident."

In my opinion, this statement, posted in its entirety, is not enough. Encouraging me to write the following letter to the university president.

On a positive note, Kansas State prevailed which eliminated Southern Miss and their band's future TV opportunities.

The following letter was sent through the University online "Ask the President" contact form.

The University President Martha Saunders
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Dear President Saunders,

Like many sports fans, I've found the actions of students in your band offensive. Not only was it classless, but it was also offensive to every American citizen born in Puerto Rico who are constantly reviewed as second class citizens in the eyes of some.

I call on you to create an example of the students and the administrators. It needs to be clear that top level NCAA sports teams, and colleges and universities in general, should be intolerant when it comes to racism.

My recommendations:

  • Terminate the director of the band. This faculty member clearly had was not acting in a supervisory capacity over the traveling band.

  • Expel students involved in the chant. Particularly the students who asked the member of the media if the chant could be heard on television. It's particularly offensive because it was clear that they were not only interested in rattling Mr. Rodriguez during foul shots, but they also were interested in publicizing their racism.

  • Disband the pep band. For a period of one year I recommend that the traveling pep band be prevented from playing publicly. While not every band member participated, they endorsed it in their silence. You need to demonstrate that racism is not only the fault of those calling names, but it's also the fault of those who sit idle.

Yes, there will be repercussions for your University to take such extreme action. However, it's my belief that when a university official makes bold statements toward the moral good, the university is a better place.

These students' actions were an embarrassment to your team, to the band, to the University of Southern Mississippi and to the citizens of your state. It perpetuates the myth that everyone in Mississippi is racist and unintelligent.


Jason Tweed


  1. Jake Your bro-in-law12:45:00 PM

    I agree but disagree. I agree with your sanction suggestions, terminate the (or severely fine) the band director, and disband the pep band. I don't exactly agree with expelling the students. I would cancel scholarships for two years and or add a tolerance and racial understanding class to their semester course load as part of their humanities enrichment. If these students really want to atone for their actions, they should be willing to pay for their education at the same university in which they started. As well, they should want to understand what they did wrong and how to fix it.
    Unfortunately, many people don't understand how the things they say are discriminatory/stereotypical. "You're black so you'll be faster than the rest of the team." "Girl's are better at helping younger students because they automatically nurture." "How can you get a C in math, you're Asian?" "No wonder he got beat up, he's a white dude that listens to country and has a southern accent. Those Yee Haw folks are all klan members."
    They need to learn; that's what college is for.

  2. Viper - The other bro-in-law9:39:00 PM

    Yes, I think Jake is right. Sunfyres Punishment a bit severe. Though its worth the sentiment as a baseline for disciplinary action. I think the band will be embarrased enough by seeing part of its band dismissed. I think they will receive enough backlash from the public and peers. It shouldnt be taken out on the whole band. You cant blame the flutists, It was probably the tuba section, you know how big there mouths are. Hey wait! Thats biggotted, hmmm well actually maybe theres some truth there. Anyway, They should be forced to play 'Living la vita loca" over and over till there lips blow out.

  3. My question is... "is this a first offense or just the first conviction?" I think that ultimately the punishment should fit the crime, I'm more interested in how the President handles it publicly. A two sentence apology on a blog doesn't cut it for me.

    Kids are stupid, and college kids corner the market on stupid. If this was a spur of the moment issue, that's one thing. But if this is one of many instances where a faculty member is simply ignored it, possibly because of their own feelings, it's a serious problem.

    I think because of the public nature, President Saunders needs to investigate thoroughly, then hold an appropriate level of accountability.

    Unfortunately, Jake, I disagree on one thing. I think the courses on tolerance and racial understanding are a poor punishment.

    In the Penn State debacle, I wrote how the trustees would make a token gesture, and that's exactly what they did. They donated $1 million to a children's safety charity. But, compared to the hundreds of millions generated by the football program, it's ridiculous. It ends up being part of the cost of doing business, not true repentance.

    Southern Miss needs to set an example. Firing one band director, and removing all of the offending students from the band permanently is a good start.

    The irony is the name of the band is "Pride of Mississippi". I believe that should come with at least a small amount of responsibility.


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