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Faculty Senate continues Douglas Hall discussion

Chrissy Miller, News Editor

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The Faculty Senate continued the discussion regarding renaming Douglas Hall and decided to take a vote at its next meeting.

Faculty Senate member Todd Bruns proposed voting in the next meeting on sending it to a naming committee, continuing the discussion on campus climate and making sure Eastern is a friendly place for all students. The resolution would be structured in a way Faculty Senate would be involved in the conversation.

Faculty Senate chair Jemmie Robertson and Faculty Senate member Teshome Abebe said they plan to draft this resolution.

Robertson said he would like to get the Eastern community more involved in this discussion and see what the political climate of Eastern is like before moving forward too rapidly.

“I think before we proceed we should reach out to a diverse number of constituency groups and other on-campus groups before we feel there is enough organic supporters for it to move forward,” Robertson said.

Faculty Senate member Joe Williams started the overall discussion with a memory from 1956.

He said on a schoolyard in 1956, a white child began playing with a black boy and girl when  a third-grade teacher approached them and told the little boy and girl “of color” they had to leave because they didn’t belong there.

“Confused, the white child asked, ‘Why can’t they play with me?’ And she replied, ‘Because they are negroes and they are not like us.’ It was a terrible thing to say to a child. That child has carried the memory of that first occasion of prejudice to this very day. The world changed for that child on that day,” Williams said. “You see, I am that white child.”

Williams said he holds the memory of seeing those two children, who he never saw again, walking away with their heads down, and it makes him angry.

However, he said the Senate should be cautious against making the decision too quickly without first considering the actual Lincoln Douglas Debates.

“…The Lincoln Douglas Debates were critical to Americans standing up and making a choice, were critical to Americans standing up and making the right choice, were critical to Americans standing up and saying, ‘we’re not going to live in a country that supports slavery.’”

Williams said instead of being offended by the hall’s name, students should be honored to live in a hall that commemorates the debates which led to “freedom for all men.”

He said keeping the “Lincoln Douglas Debate Hall” on the structure was important. He said he would be willing to vote for removing the individual names of both Douglas and Lincoln Halls, and renaming them the Lincoln Douglas debate halls which would have an east and west wing.

Senate member Grant Sterling said this debate is not organic in nature and does not seem to concern most of his students. In fact, he noted most of his students did not even know who the hall was named after.

He said in one class he found the same number of students who could name the person who Booth Library was named after as who could name why the Lincoln Douglas Halls were named what they were.

In both cases, Sterling said there was only one student.

The senate also voted in favor of disbanding the Ad hoc Committee for the Review of Workgroup 7 Recommendations.

Chrissy Miller can be reached at 581-2812 or

1 Comment
  • judgebutkus

    “Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history.” Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, December 1,1862.
    Much of what is wrong with today’s political theatrics is in my view the failure of our politicians and activist to understand that our shared history, as Americans, is what makes us who we are, for better or worse. To ignore our history is to imperil our future.
    The historic names we have attached to some of our buildings, streets and parks serve as a constant reminder to us today that we must remember the past, so as to avoid repeating the same mistakes today and in the future. It is education at is essence and isn’t that the life blood of our beloved University.
    Illinois oldest State Monument is the Stephen Douglas Monument in Chicago. Shall we tear it down as well. Why stop there? If the purpose of these activists is to remove the constant reminders of our past then we must remove the names and faces of all prior leaders and politicians because none are without blemishes and imperfections. We should then burn the history books and references by that logic.

    “Any person who considers himself, and intends to remain, a member of
    Western society inherits the Western past from Athens and Jerusalem to
    Runnymede and Valley Forge, as well as to Watts and Chicago of August
    1968. He may ignore it or deny it, but that does not alter the fact. The
    past sits back and smiles and knows it owns him anyway.”

    Barbara W. Tuchman,

    Practicing History: Selected Essays

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Faculty Senate continues Douglas Hall discussion