BOT hears about proposal to change Douglas Hall’s name

Cassie Buchman, Editor in Chief

Already a topic heavily discussed at Faculty Senate, the proposal to change the name of Douglas Hall was touched on briefly in a Board of Trustees meeting during constituency reports.

Faculty Senate chair Jemmie Robertson updated the Board on the senate’s progress in the discussion.

The proposal is a revised version of a similar proposal by former English professor Chris Hanlon in 2010, when he still taught at Eastern.

Hanlon now teaches at Arizona State University.

The revised proposal was put on an agenda for Faculty Senate to discuss, where Hanlon joined via Skype. At the most recent meeting of the senate, it was decided that senators would proceed on a vote on whether or not to send the decision to a naming committee at the next Faculty Senate meeting.

“In (Eastern’s) mission statement, it says that the university community is committed to diversity and inclusion,” Robertson said. “I believe we should have a larger debate or conversation at this university about what it truthfully means to be inclusive, and how we can truly be welcoming to students of diverse backgrounds.”

He said to recruit and retain students with diverse backgrounds, current students must be engaged in a dialogue about what the university can do to embody these ideals.

Though “simply changing the name on a building will not resolve any of those conversations,” Robertson said figuring out how to be diverse and diversity itself is the key to having future success as a university.

What Robertson thinks would be a “simple solution” is renaming the hall to Lincoln and Douglas Debate Hall, to commemorate the significance of the debates, and not the man, Stephen Douglas, himself.

“What is most important, I believe, is that we have a conversation about our values and move forward with those,” Robertson said.

Mark Hudson, director of Housing and Dining, said they are in this “holding pattern” waiting to see what the Faculty Senate says.

While there would be some expenses, namely replacing the name of the building in campus maps and other places, that is not the point of the issue, he said.

“Those are the kinds of things you deal with in the post-process,” Hudson said. “The institution just has to decide what it thinks is the right thing to do with the issue overall.”

Eastern President David Glassman said he is following what is taking place in Faculty Senate, but has not developed an action plan because it is not yet known what the resolution will be, if one comes forward to his desk.

“Right now I’m in a waiting period,” Glassman said.

He added that if there were actions taking place on this, he would have hoped it would have been organic and generated from Eastern students and faculty.

“That doesn’t alter my opinion or alter how we follow through (with the issue),” Glassman said. “I just wish it had been something to come from our community.”

The Faculty Senate is an advisory body to the president. The only organization able to change the name of buildings is the Board of Trustees.

“If the resolution comes forward then I will review that resolution with the president’s council,” Glassman said. “We’ll discuss it, and (see) if this is a resolution we want to pursue in dialogue or to rule on recommendation-wise and what’s the pathway that we would take?”

Options include reinstating the naming committee, or perhaps a survey, Glassman said.

Approved at the meeting was a $100 per semester credit hour fee for new and returning students in the master’s degree program for communication disorders and sciences. This will be effective starting Fall 2018.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]