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University of Mississippi

OXFORD – A University Committee tasked with investigating a reported election night riot on campus ruled Friday that student misrepresentations fueled the incident.

The University of Mississippi faculty/staff Incident Review Committee said social media, including Facebook and Twitter, were fuel for the events that happened on campus that night.

The IRC has forwarded the names of 14 students to either the Office of Student Conduct or the Office of the Provost for further investigation and possible disciplinary/academic sanctions or participation in a restorative justice program, including 10 whose social media posts were “particularly egregious.”

Through student, staff and university police interviews, as well as analysis of social media posts, the committee’s findings revealed several key themes: the role of social media, university police response, racially charged comments and actions, the role of student media, freshmen involvement and the impact of events on students and the community.

The committee determined that a crowd that grew to 400 students was composed of an “overwhelming majority of students (who) were present as curious spectators.”

The committee reported that students (mostly freshmen living on campus) were drawn largely by Twitter to observe what some described in social media as a “riot.”

The committee found that student reporters using social media were the first news media to publish the word “riot,” which was repeated in regional and national news.

“We found no evidence of any property damage or physical injuries to anyone, and four university police officers were able to disperse the crowd in little over one hour. No, it wasn’t a riot, but it was a painful, ugly night for many Ole Miss students,” said committee co-chair Leslie Banahan.

A university committee is studying alternatives for advancing racial reconciliation on campus and the Division of Student Affairs is implementing programs to educate students on appropriate use of social media.

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