Dozens of marchers took to Clemson University, Wednesday, in support of re-naming the most iconic building on campus.
Tillman Hall is named after Clemson founder and former South Carolina Governor, Ben Tillman. He was also a declared white supremacist.
This re-naming debate has dragged on for years. Now, supporters say racially-based bloodshed in Charleston this summer is proof that the time to act is now.
Marchers along the planned route chanted “reclaim old main,” referring to the original name of the controversial building. The march is part of a student movement to stake claim in a situation where they have limited control, despite nearly a year of protest.
It’s up to the Clemson University Board of Trustees to change the name. Last school year they said Tillman Hall would remain.
Graduate student A.D. Carson said if the formal name isn’t changing, their reference to it will.
“We will refer to it as Old Main and there’s nothing that’s going to stop us, even those board of trustee members who continue to honor Tillman,” said Carson.
We asked the University for a statement regarding the day’s march and the renaming of Tillman Hall. They gave us one referring to the diversity task force appointed this year by the University Board of Trustees. They said this is the time they are gathering public opinion to determine how to best tell the University’s history.
The task force is charged with studying Clemson’s history and coming up with better ways to acknowledge the past and recognize historical figures. They will then make those recommendations to trustees, but there’s no preset action they plan to take.
History professor, Dr. Vernon Burton, encourages out of the box thinking.
“I’d like to see Tillman Hall become Gant-Tillman Hall or Tillman-Gant Hall. Harvey Gant who integrated Clemson in 1963,” he said.
In the wake of this summer’s racially motivated shooting in Charleston, Burton said it may encourage necessary change, but a name change isn’t a perfect solution.
“I don’t want people to think just by renaming buildings, we’re going to get at those real problems. I think it’s a step in the right direction to confront our history, to admit our history and to move forward from that,” he said.
The task force appointed in July has 6 months to come up with recommendations to present to the full board. Meanwhile, student groups on campus vow to keep pushing the issue and make their voices heard.