Forum for student groups held Monday

Corryn Brock, News Editor

The Naming Committee hosted a forum for 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 N.A.A.C.P. Monday afternoon. 

Eighteen students attended the forum with 12 of them speaking on the possibility of renaming Douglas Hall. All students spoke in favor of renaming the building. 

This follows the trend of the previous four forums before the one held Monday, which all saw a majority of people sharing that they felt the name should be changed. The previous forums were for the student body as a whole, faculty, staff and the surrounding community. 

Brittany Britton, a senior sociology major and BSU president, spoke on both the issues she sees with the name of Douglas Hall as well as the issues she sees with names around Eastern as a whole. 

“There are no buildings on this campus, with the exception of the Martin Luther King (Jr. University Union), that recognize any individuals, any leaders that, I’ll just be honest, are not white,” Britton said. “When you’re a student of color, it puts you into a different kind of space because here you are on campus trying to branch out and be a leader but there really isn’t any notice of any leaders in your community on campus.” 

Britton said that with the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union, even though it is named after Martin Luther King Jr., most people only refer to the building as the union. She added that she believes the Naming Committee should change the name for better representation, saying the university does not have enough. 

Asher Roper, a senior accounting major and BSU secretary, said students need to hold the university accountable in the renaming process.   

“It’s very disrespectful, first and foremost, to African Americans and other minorities as well who face racial prejudice and injustice as well…it doesn’t make any sense to have somebody (like Stephen Douglas being commemorated) when your university holds its self as being a cultural gumbo pot, it contradicts itself to have something like that but to also still have students that go here that goes against what (the university) is commemorating,” Roper said. 

Roper said changing the name could be “one of the small victories that could be potentially be something in the future.” 

He ended his thoughts with that he hopes after his experiences at Eastern over the past four years he hopes the name of the building changes. 

“I hope that university does change that because at the end of the day if y’all are not going to truly do that, full representation, y’all should take that out of y’all’s pamphlet, y’all should take that out of y’all’s commitments or whatever the case may be because at the end of the day you’re not really sticking your neck out for that,” Roper said. 

Diana Argueta, a junior graphic design major and LASO president, said she was curious as to why the university wanted a building named after Douglas. 

“Why does EIU want to attach themselves to a racist person, especially if they’re always promoting diversity and inclusion and all of that stuff,” Argueta said. 

Argueta added she thought it was ridiculous the debate on whether the university should rename the building has gone on for 10 years, saying Douglas was a racist and did not contribute anything to Eastern itself. 

Argueta said she understood that Eastern wants to commemorate the debate between Douglas and Abraham Lincoln but said it and Douglas does not have a connection to Eastern. She added having a hall named after Lincoln was enough to commemorate the debate. 

Blake Meadows, a senior biology major and president of Alpha Psi Lambda, said she was unaware of the person Douglas Hall is named after until her fraternity’s advisor brought it to the group. She said learning about the situation frustrated her.   

Meadows said the university often promotes diversity but to her, it feels like a way to bring in students of color. She said those students are then shocked when the campus is mostly white and she can see the name of Douglas being hurtful to those students. 

“EIU’s out here promoting diversity and they’re also against it, it doesn’t really make sense,” Meadows said. 

Christian Watson, a freshman Spanish education major, said he was also unaware of Douglas Hall until recently. 

“Obviously as a freshman coming to EIU I didn’t do too much research about the names of the buildings or the history behind (them) but then of course when I do find out that there is a building on campus named after someone who was racist, who had their fame and everything because of the racism and how they treated Black people, it’s upsetting,” Watson said. 

He said it was disappointing because he chose Eastern expecting the university diverse. 

“What do you see every time you go to sign in to anything to do with EIU? A Black student. What do you see all on the website? Latinos, Blacks, students of color…then I get here and I see it’s majority white and this adds onto it,” Watson said. 

Watson said seeing Douglas Hall and knowing who the building is named after adds to the disappointment for him. He said the university should not be considering anything but a change. 

“This shouldn’t even be a thought when your student body is saying ‘we don’t want this anymore’ it shouldn’t really matter what the community says,” Watson said. “…The school should be able to adapt and adjust based on the current body and the needs and concerns of the student now.” 

Roper recommended that there be some other ways to commemorate the debates that do not involve Eastern. 

“This individual should be somewhere in Charleston community’s archives or in a museum,” Roper said. “There’s no way that we should be commemorating something to this with individual just because of his impact on the community and not the university. 

Currently, a museum located at the Coles County Fairgrounds commemorates the debates. 

Statues of Lincoln and Douglas are outside of the and inside of the museum is information on the historical debate. The museum is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. according to Charleston’s website. 

The committee encourages engagement with its survey available at go.eiu.edu/EIUDouglasHallSurvey. 

The Naming Committee will hold a forum Tuesday at 4 p.m. for students affiliated with the student government, Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council and a forum Thursday at 5 p.m. for students affiliated with the Residence Hall Association. 

 

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