Naming Committee offers forums, survey

Corryn Brock, News Editor

Eastern’s Naming Committee has scheduled forums to discuss the potential renaming of Douglas Hall.

The forums will allow for each of the relevant constituencies to give feedback on the name charge and discuss the matter openly.

The constituencies focus on those attending Eastern, those working at Eastern and the surrounding community.

All forums have been scheduled with the first, for staff members, being held Thursday.

Others include:

• Eastern faculty only (March 23, 3 p.m.; contact Don Holly at [email protected] for log-in information) 

• Open student forum (March 23, 7 p.m.; Zoom Meeting ID: 919 6783 6019, Passcode EIU1895)

• Open community forum (March 25, 7 p.m., Zoom Meeting ID: 943 8017 6654, Passcode: EIU1895)

• Eastern students affiliated with the Black Student Union, the Latin American Student Organization, Alpha Psi Lambda, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and Eastern’s chapter of the NAACP (March 29, 4 p.m.; contact Mona Davenport at [email protected] for log-in information)

• Eastern students affiliated with Eastern’s Student Government, the Interfraternity Council and PanHellenic Council (March 30, 4 p.m.; contact Davenport at [email protected] for log-in information)

• Eastern Students affiliated with Eastern’s Residence Hall Association (April 1, 5 p.m.; contact Ken Wetstein [email protected] for the meeting log-in information)

All forums will be facilitated by members of the Naming Committee.

University President David Glassman sent an email to the Eastern community regarding the upcoming forums Thursday morning. In the email he explained why the Naming Committee was brought together to discuss the potential renaming of Douglas Hall for the third time since 2010.

“This is not the first time a University committee has been assembled to make a recommendation on a potential renaming,” Glassman said. “However, citing the death of George Floyd and other incidents of racial and social injustices, the University community was compelled to revisit the Douglas Hall designation this academic year, recognizing the grief and anguish often caused by unchecked systemic oppression and institutional racism.”

When originally asking the committee to come together once again, Glassman said there are points to support keeping the name as well as to change it.

“There is no doubt that Stephen Douglas was a racist and an ardent supporter of slavery and there is no doubt the naming of Douglas Hall on EIU’s was never meant to commemorate his racist ideology,” Glassman said. “The naming on our campus was solely to commemorate a major historical debate that dealt with the national divisive issue of slavery in the 1850s and its impact on the eventual passing of the 13th amendment of the Constitution under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.”

In his email he also explained the decision to keep the name that has been made by previous Naming Committees and Glassman as well as his predecessor, former Eastern University President William Perry.

“When this issue was reviewed in the past, it was the recommendation of the Naming Committee to retain the name of Douglas Hall as commemoration of the Lincoln-Douglas debate, however the committee further recommended that the university serve to educate the public and its students about the context of the debate and the deplorable racist ideology and rhetoric of Douglas;” Glassman said. “To that end, the university constructed a historical presentation outlining the Lincoln-Douglas debate located in Stevenson Hall between the Lincoln and Douglas residence halls.”

Glass said the upcoming forums are “a testament to EIU’s values of diversity and inclusivity, the Naming Committee is especially interested in hearing from members of our EIU Family.”

Glassman encourages all who can attend to do so. If someone is interested in providing feedback but is uncomfortable doing so or unable to do so in the forum, they can visit go.eiu.edu/EIUDouglasHallSurvey.

The survey option also allows anonymity.

So far the committee has heard from two individuals during their meetings. One was in favor of the name changing. and the other was not. 

“My son attended (Eastern) in the last 90s, early 2000s and he actually lived in Douglas Hall. What is Douglas Hall without Lincoln Hall? It’s like salt and pepper, bread and butter,” Jan Nickell, mother of an Eastern alumni, said. “They go together. There’s a lot of negative towards Douglas now because of who he was but Lincoln would not have been the man he was without Douglas … I would like to see history remain at Eastern, good or bad it happened.”

Chris Hanlon, former Eastern professor and the individual responsible for bringing petitions forward on multiple occasions to change the name of Douglas Hall, disagreed.

“This is not some local issue anymore. It is not properly decided in light of local opinion or even student opinion. Since Eastern missed its chance to rename this building ten years ago, the University of Chicago has removed Douglas’s name from one of its own buildings and a city park in Chicago has also been stripped of Douglas’s name. This is in keeping with renaming processes now underway around the county and the world. You could’ve led the way, but if you do not at least now follow in this context now, you dig in and insist on embracing Stephen Douglas you will distinguish Eastern as a place that is peculiarly determined to align itself with those who come to this issue from a place of resentment over critiques of historical racism, the Black Lives Matter Movement or Eastern’s own problematic record on race. Renaming is the default position. The easiest thing to do,” Hanlon said. “Not to do so now is to go out of your way in order to embrace Douglas and what he represents.”

“I think you should name it for Obama, you should name it for Frederick Douglass, name it for that Homecoming Queen who lost her crown to a bunch of racists. Denounce Douglas whoever you name it after and denounce the Eastern that once enshrined him,” Hanlon said. “Have that courage.”

 

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