Glassman speaks on possible renaming of Douglas Hall

Corryn Brock, News Editor

The University Naming Committee has been asked to consider potentially changing the name of Douglas Hall by University President David Glassman.

The committee has met twice in the last ten years to seriously discuss a name change but both times decided to keep the name, but the committee has been asked to make another recommendation following events over the summer.

“This is an issue that has been discussed and evaluated and debated for about a decade now and we’ve had two major university reviews of a potential name change and then during course of the summer there obviously has been a great deal of additional awareness and the whole nation is grappling with the issues of systematic racism and differential social justice and discrimination based on one’s race and while the president’s council was working all summer primarily on COVID-19 return to campus plans, this issue kept coming up for us in our discussions and we felt the time is now to really evaluate it again under the new light, under the current awareness’s that are taking place across our nation,” Glassman said.

The name goes hand-in-hand with Lincoln Hall to commemorate the debate that happened at the Coles County Fairgrounds Sept. 18, 1858.

Glassman said the original idea of the names of the halls were meant the commemorate the debate and Lincoln’s connection to the local area, not Douglas or his personal beliefs.

“The name of Douglas Hall was never intended to commemorate him and his racist ideologies, it was always to commemorate a really seminal, important historical debate that took place just two miles away from our campus,” Glassman said.

However, Glassman said this time he is asking the committee to shift the way the address the issue, so they focus more on the university’s principles rather than the debate itself.

“What I am asking the Naming Committee is to look at this from a standpoint of EIU’s mission, our values and our commitment to inclusion and how does that name fit into those type of criteria,” Glassman said. “In the past it was really just weighing the debate and the importance of the debate versus the having the name on a building at EIU and the debate kind of won out because it was so significant and meaningful to Coles County.”

Glassman said the debate has been ongoing throughout the years and is something that has been consistently on his radar.

“The campus debate about the name of Douglas Hall has never ended even during interim periods people still bring it up…even during off times when it’s not a major debate on campus people still reach out and say ‘you know, we should think about this again and really evaluate it,’” Glassman said.

He said he can see validity in both sides of the debate.

“The debate continues on because both sides have valid opinions, valid positions but this time I want it to be evaluated rather by the point of EIU’s mission, our values, our commitment to inclusion and have that as a meaningful part of the discussion instead of just the debate,” Glassman said.

After the announcement that he would be asking the committee to meet once to address the name Glassman said he received several emails for and against a name change.

Glassman said his council has brought up the question of why have the name of someone like Douglas attached to a building at Eastern even if it wasn’t meant to commemorate him, his beliefs or his work.

“In the past it was felt (we should not change the name) because of that debate but today it seems to be different in the minds and hearts of the president’s council and myself,” Glassman said.

If the naming committee decides to recommend a name change any number of names could be suggested to the Board of Trustees for a new name.

The naming committee will reach out to constituencies on campus like students and other campus groups for potential names if the change is made, according to Glassman.

Eastern uses a shared governance model for big change, so the name change consideration must be done by the committee who will make a recommendation to Glassman and then the BOT will make a final decision.

Glassman said he has no name suggestions, but he has heard several, including naming the building after Frederick Douglass.

Changing the name to commemorate Douglass has seen support and opposition.

Some feel the change would be an easy and simple change while others feel that it would be an “easy way out.”

Glassman said he can see how it could be viewed both ways.

“One of the reasons it has been suggested is because the name would remain Douglas Hall with an extra ‘s’ and that would be easy and convenient and no matter when you lived in that hall you can always say you lived in Douglas/s Hall and he is a very worthy person to honor but … I don’t know if we’re looking for just ease and convenience. An incredible statesperson who is deserving of being commemorated he certainly is but I don’t want to do it just because it’s easy and simple,” Glassman said. “If this becomes a naming opportunity for the university I would like wide input for suggestions as to who we would like to honor with commemorating that building in their name.”

Ultimately, Glassman said he doesn’t see the name change being a huge step but rather a first step.

“Changing the name of the building isn’t going to change the culture but there is something symbolic of that so if that helps to develop the dialogue and the discussion a and finding common values and grounds and making progress towards changing a culture to be more inclusion then it’s a good catalyst,” Glassman said.

 

Corryn Brock can be reached can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]