Naming Committee discusses survey Wednesday

Corryn Brock, News Editor

The Naming Committee had a discussion on survey and forum questions for the potential Douglas Hall name change during its meeting Wednesday morning.

The committee discussed a rough draft introduction for the survey and debated the language used in it.

Currently the survey will include a brief explanation of the arguments for and against the name change.

The argument for retaining the name is described as: “Built simultaneously in the late 50’s, the two residence halls that now bear the names of “Lincoln Hall” and ‘Douglas Hall’ were given those names by the University to recognize that Charleston, IL was the site of one of the historic debates between Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, rivals in the US Senate race in Illinois in 1858, a century before. As such, the Douglas name honors the history of the debate, not the man himself. It is important to retain the name of Douglas Hall to not lose sight of the historical importance of the debates and the role that Charleston played in one of the most important political debates of the 19th century. This history is a point of pride for many members of the Charleston and Coles County communities. Removing the name is a way of erasing important regional history.”

The argument for removing the name is described as: “Eastern Illinois University proclaims itself as an institution ‘committed to diversity and inclusion.’ Stephen Douglas, Illinois’ US Senator from 1847 to 1861, is unworthy of commemoration at the University because he built his political career upon a platform advocating for the extension of slavery into the western territories of the US while consistently relying upon inflammatory and racist rhetoric to excite the support of pro-slavery voters. At the first Lincoln-Douglas debate, Douglas stated his position. that the ‘Government…was made for white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians, and other inferior races.’ Douglas’ legacy is antithetical to EIU’s values. Continuing to commemorate his name does further harm to current and future students, faculty, and staff at the University.”

Both will be changed based on conversations had during the meeting and will be rewritten to better reflect what the committee intends for the message to be.

Committee member Diane Burns further explained what the survey will look like for those who participate in giving their opinion to the committee.

She said the survey should take two minutes unless the respondent chooses to give longer than usual answers.

Giving a name to respond to the survey will not be required.

The committee is seeking opinions from students, faculty, staff, former employees, alumni and the surrounding community.

Committee member Don Holly said a faculty forum regarding the potential Douglas Hall name change will be held March 24.

The members of the committee who host forums are asked to record meetings so other members of the committee who are unable to attend can still hear the discussion.

Ken Wetstein, ex officio convener of the committee, said for student forums the committee should hold one for the general student body as well as separate forums for the Black Student Union, the Student Senate, the Douglas Hall Council and/or the Resident Hall Association.

Committee member Mona Davenport encouraged including the National Pan-Hellenic Council, National Panhellenic Conference and the Interfraternity Council and combining the Black Student Union and the Student Senate for a meeting.

She also mentioned including the NAACP chapter, Latin American Student Organization and Alpha Psi Lambda.

Holly said he thinks the forums for the groups could be held individually to encourage more engagement among students in the forums.

The idea of groups sending delegates to speak on their behalf was also discussed.

Those interested in speaking to a member of the committee can reach out to Don Holly (representing the Faculty Senate), Claudia Janssen-Danyi (representing the Council on Academic Affairs), Angie Campbell (committee chair and representative of the Staff Senate), Diane Burns (representing the Council of Chairs), Noor-ul-Haash Khamisani (representing the Student Senate), Carlos Amaya (presidential appointee), Mona Davenport (presidential appointee) or Ken Wetstein, Vice President of University Advancement and ex officio convener of the committee.

The next Naming Committee meeting will be held March 3.

 

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