CUSG Resolutions to Rename Tillman and Honors College -Zachary Faria

The CUSG senate on Monday introduced two resolutions calling on the university to rename the Calhoun Honors College and to support the necessary actions to rename Tillman Hall.

The Calhoun resolution, which was sponsored by the entire Inclusion and Equity Committee, calls on the Executive Leadership Team to begin discussing  the name change with the Honors College administrative team. The resolution comes on the heels of a petition circulating among the student body, which had 260 signatures at the time the resolution was introduced, including Clemson alumni. That total adds up to around 1% of the current student body of Clemson University.

The Tillman resolution was solely sponsored by Inclusion and Equity chairman Jay Sridharan, and its writing began with the Health and Human Services committee last term. Sridharan told the TTO that he had no further comment on either resolution beyond what he and the committee said during the senate session.

Senator Sridharan and the Inclusion and Equity Committee were noncommittal to examining name changes for former senator Strom Thurmond or Clemson; also figures with checkered pasts. They did state that they were not interested in renaming Clemson University, citing that the connotation of Clemson’s name is not the same as Calhoun’s or Tillman’s, and that it would be infeasible to attempt a renaming of Clemson.

According to the committee, Clemson’s general counsel stated that the South Carolina Code of Laws, and not the Heritage Act, is the applicable law regarding renaming. The South Carolina Code of Laws states that “No street, bridge, structure, park, preserve, reserve, or other public area of the State or any of its political subdivisions dedicated in memory of or named for any historic figure or historic event may be renamed or rededicated.” (Section 10-1-165). While this does apply to Tillman Hall, it would not protect the Calhoun Honors College, as it is the name of a program and not a physical location. An amendment to this section would require a 2/3rds vote of the state legislature.

John C. Calhoun’s name was recently removed from a building at Yale University, though Calhoun played a more integral role to Clemson’s existence than his time as a student at Yale, as Clemson University sits on Calhoun’s old Fort Hill plantation. Calhoun most famously endorsed slavery as a “positive good” that benefitted both slaves and slave owners. Ben Tillman was also integral to the founding of Clemson, helping push the vote over the line to establish the university and being one of its first trustees. The Board of Trustees denounced Tillman in 2015 as “repugnant…known to be by his own admission an ardent racist and led a campaign of terror against African Americans in South Carolina that included intimidation and violence of which he boasted about publicly.”

Thomas Green Clemson willed his land to the state to form an agricultural institution. He is quoted on Clemson University’s website as having said, “My experience tells me that the Institution of slavery is at all times good for the Negro (no laborers in the world are so well off.) At times good for the master, but very bad for the state.”

Both resolutions will be voted on next Monday, February 25th, barring any unforeseen circumstances. The Bias Incident resolution was scheduled to be voted on after being introduced last week, but it was tabled by a vote of 23-22. “Our plan is to get in contact with administrators to address the concerns of other senators brought up during pro-con debate,” Senator Abdeladl told the TTO. “This will likely come to the floor again in the coming weeks following these conversations.”

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