Gretchen Higgins had just returned to her Oxford dorm room when she heard the commotion outside her window. Midnight was nearing on Nov. 6, after polls had closed on Election Day. After about 10 minutes, as the chorus of what started off sounding like celebratory cheers grew louder, Higgins went downstairs to see what was going on.
There, near the intersection of Rebel Drive and Student Union Drive on the University of Mississippi campus, a small group of black students celebrated President Barack Obama's landslide electoral victory. The revelry had started in front of Kincannon Hall, a seven-story all-male dormitory largely populated by African Americans.
Black students taunted white students about the victory of the nation's first black president over Mitt Romney slogans from Young Jeezy's 2008 post-electoral creed "My president is black." A larger group of white mostly male students had come over from Stockard Hall and tried to shout down the black students with the old Confederate rallying cry of, "The South will rise again."
Higgins, a freshman biology major, witnessed a fight between one black and one white female student after the white student, who appeared to be drunk, said "f*ck Obama" as she passed her black classmate.
Higgins believes the white students, most of whom were male, weren't necessarily adherents to Republican political ideals or even Mitt Romney loyalists.
"I would say more in this case, (they were) anti-Obama. I doubt all those boys knew politics. It was more of a racial thing," she told the Jackson Free Press in a telephone interview Thursday.
A while male student who identified himself to a Mississippi Public Broadcasting reporter as Jansen said: “The N-word was used also. Every word in the book probably was used.” Jansen told MPB that the slurs were directed at the black students, not President Obama.
Higgins got a whiff of marijuana smoke and a lot of people in the crowd seemed intoxicated because that evening, many of the fraternities and sororities had swaps, a kind of social mixer held regularly at Oxford watering holes.
Campus police responded to reports of a disturbance at the student union and arrived to find what an officer said was around 40 students milling about. In the next 20 minutes, the crowd ballooned to approximately 400, "many of whom were chanting political slogans."
Ole Miss officials also said that police made two disorderly conduct arrests, one for failure to obey a police order and one for public intoxication. Jones said the university received no injuries or property damage. A photograph of a group of white students standing around an individual holding a burning Obama/Biden yard sign was widely circulated on the Internet.
After rumors of a riot spread across campus and social media networks, Chancellor Dan Jones responded with a statement the following morning describing the situation as resulting from "students who took a very immature and uncivil approach to expressing their views about the election."
"The University leadership strongly condemns this kind of behavior and is embarrassed that any students associated with the university would use this kind of language," Jones said.
While the Ole Miss made national headlines as media outlets attempted to draw parallels to the 1962 riot on the same campus after James Meredith enrolled, at least one other school had a similar experience.
The Associated Press reported that "about 40 students at Hampden-Sydney College shouted racial slurs, threw bottles and set off fireworks outside the Minority Student Union within minutes" of Obama's re-election.
Chris Howard, the first black president of the all-male institution, struck a chord similar to Ole Miss' Jones.
"I am terribly disappointed with the students who participated in this harmful, senseless episode including those men who stood idly by and watched it happen… There is no place for bigotry or racism on this campus," Howard wrote.
The day after the Ole Miss disturbance, 700 students, almost twice the number that had gathered to watch the events fold on election night staged a candlelight walk.
Higgins, an Illinois native, called the negative publicity unfair. "I mean, our campus is a great campus so I don't think we should have gotten the negative judgment that we might be getting," she said.
This Saturday, Nov. 10, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture is hosting a "We Are One Mississippi" Grove Tent from 2 to 6 p.m. in front of Barnard Observatory for the Ole Miss versus Vanderbilt football game. Bill Howl-N-Madd Perry will perform. The groups will give out One Mississippi stickers and shirts.