A few days before the onset of Fall semester, Vanderbilt University of Nashville, Tennessee announced a significant change that will soon occur on campus. After being the center of debates for over a decade, Vanderbilt Confederate Memorial Hall, a residence building on the campus, will now be renamed Memorial Hall.
In 1933, Tennessee Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy contributed the equivalent of $1.2 million and secured naming rights for the building. Now, the $1.2 million is being financed by anonymous donors who gave the money specifically for the purpose of having the word “Confederate” removed from the building’s name.
The private university has referred to the Confederate Memorial Hall simply as “Memorial Hall” since 2002, but was hindered in court from changing the name chiseled onto the building because of the organization’s naming rights obtained 83 years ago.
“The residence hall bearing the inscription Confederate Memorial Hall has been a symbol of exclusion and a divisive contradiction of our hopes and dreams of being a truly great and inclusive university,” Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said in a statement on Monday. “It spoke to a past of racial segregation, slavery, and the terrible conflict over the unrealized high ideals of our nation and our university, and looms over a present that continues to struggle to end the tragic effects of racial segregation and strife.”
The chancellor explained that the “tipping point” in the renaming debate was the Charleston massacre, when Dylan Roof killed nine parishioners during a Bible study session at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. “It really woke a lot of people up to the power of symbols and the nation’s past,” he said.
Like Zeppos mentioned in his statement, “[The] discussion of symbols and inclusion is occurring at every university ― north, south, east and west,” and time will tell what other changes will take place on campuses across America.
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