However, the public display of Confederate symbols has been subject to heated debates since the June massacre of nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Police said the attack was racially motivated. The white man charged in the slayings had posed with a Confederate battle flag in photos posted online before the massacre.
More than 200 people took part in a remove-the-flag rally Oct. 16 on the Oxford campus. It was sponsored by the university chapter of the NAACP.
The University of Mississippi has struggled with Old South symbolism for decades. In 1962, deadly riots broke out when James Meredith was enrolled as the first black student, under court order. Ole Miss administrators have tried to distance the school from Confederate symbols. Sports teams are still called the Rebels, but the university several years ago retired the Colonel Rebel mascot - a white-haired old man some thought resembled a plantation owner. The university also banned sticks in the football stadium nearly 20 years ago, which eliminated most Confederate battle flags that fans carried.
"The University of Mississippi community came to the realization years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values, such as civility and respect for others," Stocks said in the statement Monday. "Since that time, we have become a stronger and better university. We join other leaders in our state who are calling for a change in the state flag."
Several Mississippi cities and counties have stopped flying the state flag since the Charleston shootings. The state's three historically black universities had stopped flying the flag earlier, and the state's only black U.S. representative, Democrat Bennie Thompson, does not display the state flag in his offices because of the Confederate symbol.