Douglas to remain, thanks for listening Perry

Last week, President Bill Perry effectively put an end to the now-famous question on campus: “Douglas or Douglass?” by recommending that Douglas Hall keep its name.

Associate professor of English Chris Hanlon instigated the issue last semester by proposing to change the name of Douglas Hall, named after senator Stephen A. Douglas, to Douglass Hall in honor of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Over the course of the fall semester, many organizations, ranging from student government and RHA to the Eastern Naming Committee, voted against the proposal. Of the governing groups on campus, only the Faculty Senate voted in favor of the change.

Throughout the process, we have maintained our stance against renaming the building, and we applaud Perry for listening to and agreeing with the majority of the campus

Hanlon’s suggestion that Senator Douglas, a documented white supremacist, should not be celebrated is a viable argument. However, in the end, it is not necessarily Douglas being commemorated, but the historic Lincoln-Douglas senatorial debates that took place throughout Illinois including, most importantly for Eastern, Charleston.

Perry said he plans to organize a team headed by Blair Lord, vice president for academic affairs, and Dan Nadler, vice president for student affairs, with the objective of compiling a display to properly explain the background of Lincoln and Douglas halls.

As there are often complaints that nothing exciting happens in our city, the fact that Charleston is part of something as significant as the Lincoln-Douglas senate race needs to be recognized and celebrated. We agree the display would help students and visitors alike understand the importance of the debates.

In a quotation from a Jan. 13 Daily Eastern News article, Hanlon expressed his appreciation for the amount of thought put into Perry’s decision, but also said, ”I continue to believe that the name of Douglas Hall distorts history and reflects poorly on Eastern.”

We disagree. When Douglas Hall was named, it was not in honor of Stephen Douglas the individual. The university was not condoning racism, or even Douglas’ politics in general. Eastern was, and still is, demonstrating respect for Charleston’s past and its importance to our nation.

We are in no way against the renaming of Eastern’s buildings in general. With proper reasoning, it can certainly become an option. Nor are we saying that Frederick Douglass does not deserve to be celebrated. He played a crucial role in the anti-slavery movement and was an advocate of equality for all races, making him worthy of commemoration.

In the case of the naming dispute, it is not, in the end, a competition of Stephen Douglas versus Frederick Douglass. It comes down to the debates and their particular significance to Eastern, with Lincoln and Douglas halls being our way of recognizing that part of Charleston’s history.