‘Confederate’ removed from Memorial Hall
Vanderbilt takes huge step forward
Today, Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced Vanderbilt will pay the United Daughters of the Confederacy $1.2 million so the University can remove the word “Confederate” from one of its residence halls.
“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,” Zeppos said.
“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.”
Since its construction in 1935, the inscription on the building has read “Confederate Memorial Hall”.
Despite being officially referred to as Memorial Hall over the past few years, there have been continued calls for the controversial inscription’s removal.
Finally, progress has been made. Earlier this summer, Vanderbilt’s Board of Trust authorized Chancellor Zeppos to take action to remove the name.
Shirley Collado chaired the Board of Trust committee which considered this issue. According to Collado, deciding to remove “Confederate” was “a necessary and important step to continue to enhance the university’s ability to attract the most talented students and to ensure that our campus community is a welcoming place for all students to thrive and to learn.”
She added: “While we recognize and study our past, the considerations of our present and our future must guide our decision making.”
Vanderbilt first attempted to rename Memorial Hall in 2002. However, the United Daughters of the Confederacy pursued legal action to keep the original name.
Three years later, in 2005, a Tennessee appeals court ruled that Vanderbilt could remove “Confederate” from the inscription only if the university returned the donation to the UDC at its current value.
In compliance with this ruling, Vanderbilt will pay the Tennessee Division of the UDC $1.2 million as a return in present value of the $50,000 the organization contributed to the George Peabody College for Teachers in 1933 toward the building’s construction and naming rights.
“In removing this pediment, we are not seeking to rewrite history or to avoid the questions that should be asked of Vanderbilt and of our nation. We are realizing the truth — that we have the privilege every day to teach, to learn and, indeed, to make history,” Zeppos said.
Well done, Vanderbilt. Having to give money to the United Daughters of the Confederacy isn’t exactly ideal but the inscription definitely had to go.
There’s still a long way to go in terms of dismantling racism on campus, but at least now we won’t have to try and explain to freshmen who end up in Mem why the house they sleep in glorifies slavery.