Student protests may claim good intentions, but as their demands and methods become more outrageous, history is in danger. In order for students to feel welcome and safe — they demand historical figures and scenes must be scrubbed. These protestors demand that we adapt to their view of culture, yet they refuse to acknowledge the value of learning about cultural leaders of the past.
Here are the top 7 examples of how campus protestors are waging a war on history:
The Mizzou student protesters have been in the news all semester, perhaps earlier than some may remember. At the start of the fall semester, students were already calling for the removal of the Thomas Jefferson statue on campus; they even went as far as to call him a “rapist” and a “racist.” That call has been echoed at the College of William & Mary, — Jefferson’s alma mater.
2. Woodrow Wilson
Thomas Jefferson isn’t the only president at stake. Woodrow Wilson was also targeted, and at a school where he was once president. In November, students at Princeton University occupied the president’s office to demand his name be removed — also calling him a racist.
Wilson also had a problem at the University of Texas. The university didn’t merely remove Confederate president Jefferson Davis, but the statue of Wilson as well.
3. Thomas F. Mulledy and William McSherry, of Georgetown University
The president of Georgetown recently caved into student protests, and now Mulledy Gall has temporarily become Freedom Hall and McSherry Hall is temporarily Remembrance Hall.
Thomas F. Mulledy was president of the university and sold slaves in the 1830s to pay off the university’s death. William McSherry served as an adviser on the slave trade.
The students don’t merely want their names removed from campus, but for reparations to be paid.
4. Governor Charles Brantley Aycock: The “Education Governor”
At Duke, Aycock dormitory was immediately renamed, because former North Carolina governor, Charles Brantley Aycock, was a leader in the white supremacy movement of the early 1900s. It is noted that he did not have any affiliation as a student, professor, or donor with the then named Trinity College.
Aycock, however, was not merely the governor of the state where the school is located. He also was known as the “Education Governor,” with his name appearing on school buildings throughout the state.
5. North Carolina Secretary of State, William L. Saunders
The University of North Carolina-Chapell Hill Board of Trustees voted to rename Saunders Hall. William L. Saunders, an alum and former North Carolina Secretary of State, had the building dedicated to him in 1920. The Trustees decided to change the name because he was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan, according to them.
The project cost $12,500. Records do not actually prove Saunders was even a member of the KKK, but because the Board of Trustees said he was, his name was removed. The name of Carolina Hall, called “unifying,” did not even satisfy those who had their own ideas of a replacement.
6. Lord Jeffrey Amherst
It’s an easy guess where the controversy is associated with Amherst, at Amherst College. Students and faculty members are demanding the removal of Lord Jeff as the school’s mascot, because he supported killing Native Americans with smallpox-infected blankets.
Support for re-naming the whole school, however, is less strong.
7. Historical mural at University of Kentucky
It’s not merely historical figures that universities are removing, but historical scenes as well.
At the University of Kentucky, a mural is being covered up, because black students met with the university president, Eli Capilouto, about a mural from 1934 portraying state history. The mural included scenes of black workers.
Capilouto produced a ranting blog post defending his decision, evoking “the educational benefit of diversity” and claiming to be “respectful of every perspective.”
Where does it end?
Some examples make more sense than others. All figures and moments are part of history however, and reflect that history, good or bad. Certainly all figures had to have good qualities to them, most of all Thomas Jefferson, who produced the Declaration of Independence .
With the case of Governor Aycock, President Richard Broadhead did not regard the change as an “erasure,” but that’s what it is. Keeping the university as it has been, need not be considered an endorsement of the figure’s more condemnable views according to today’s standards, but rather a preservation and respect for history.
It’s also worth demanding a sense of consistency from these protesters. If Lord Jeff, for instance, is terrible enough to remove him as the mascot — why is it okay enough that the school bear his name? When it comes to removing from history those who supported killing Native Americans, where are the calls to remove Andrew Jackson’s name from anything and everything he is associated with?
And where will it end? As demands are met, it certainly won’t end at our colleges and universities, which ought to be places of learning. Ought to be, that is.
A thoughtful piece from the Chronicle, a paper associated with Duke University, provided many of the examples. The piece is rightly titled “Reassessing Historical Figures.” After listing its examples, the editorial board considers both sides in noting:
Despite the genuine concerns raised by student activists, we still caution this momentum in the politics of memorialization on college campuses. It is imperative to consider both the achievements and failures of these prominent figures in their historical contexts. Some failures are more egregious than others, and some achievements are more integral to the university’s founding and therefore warrant recognition… Still, revisiting the legacy of figures often only celebrated for their accomplishments is not only still a worthwhile exercise but should be encouraged so as to not pretend universities and other institutions are ready-made.
A sense of being “genuine” is not what these “student activists” lack. They do seem to have an issue of ignorance and being stuck in their own mindset. We cannot judge figures or works of art by today’s society when they did not live in today’s world. If so, we would surely be seeing many more calls for removal.