Naming Committee to meet Wednesday morning

John Wills, Campus Reporter

The University Naming Committee has gathered significant data on the opinions of students, staff, and faculty about the controversy surrounding Douglas Hall, but the question remains: when will a final recommendation be made on whether to maintain or change its name? 

The answer’s complicated, but one thing’s for sure: not at their next meeting, said convener Ken Wetstein.

The meeting comes as students, staff and faculty on campus recently finished participating in and responding to various community forums designed to poll for public opinion on the Douglas Hall issue. 

The committee will use the information gathered from those forums to make a final decision on whether to change Douglas Hall’s name.

As for when that final vote will take place? That’s not for sure, according to Wetstein. 

The committee members need time to organize their thoughts and consider the data, thus the decision won’t happen at Wednesday’s meeting. 

The committee did aim to have a recommendation ready before the end of the semester, and if that is to happen, the vote would need to take place on April 28, the committee’s last meeting before final exams.

“The work that remains before the committee is for each committee member to engage with all the content, whether it’s the forums, the survey information,” Wetstein said. “It’s my expectation that if there’s going to be any recommendation to the President, a motion for that recommendation would probably emerge at that April 28th meeting.” 

If and when the committee makes a recommendation, that is not the final step in the changing of the Douglas Hall name. 

Whatever decision the committee comes to must still be approved both by University President David Glassman and his council, as well as by the Board of Trustees. After April 28, the board’s next meeting is not until June.

In lieu of discussing the data from the forums and surveys, the committee has decided to gain a little more historical context on the issue by inviting a speaker to Wednesday’s meeting.

The committee is preparing to hear from Dr. Nicole Etcheson, the bracket professor of history from Ball State University who is especially familiar with the historical context behind the Lincoln and Douglas debates.  She will be assisting the committee members by providing the last bit of background they need to complete their research, helping them to make an impartial and educated decision on the Douglas Hall name. 

“We’ve invited her to come in and talk about Douglas in his time, and also Douglas as he’s assessed by historians of today,” Wetstein said. “I think that’ll be useful for the committee.”

The guest speaker for Wednesday’s meeting will serve as a kind of closing comment, wrapping up the data collection period for committee members and allowing them to transition to a period of consideration where they’ll think over their options before the final vote.

The committee has plenty to consider, too: the public survey alone received over 1000 total responses.   

“The committee knew going into it that they wanted more than just the forums. They’re including public comment that’s been made at meetings, letters and emails that have been submitted to members of the committee or to the university more generally, they’re considering the survey questions… historical perspectives – they’re taking a pretty broad view,” Wetstein said.

“We’re really impressed with the civility with which all of our participants in the forums approached the question. We heard different perspectives, but what we never heard was anything that was disrespectful of others.”

The committee meets at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday over Zoom. Those wishing to make public comment can also attend, and can receive log-in information by contacting Wetstein at [email protected]

 

John Wills can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]