In recent years, Vanderbilt University has officially referred to Confederate Memorial hall as just “Memorial Hall.” Now the university will go all the way, returning an 83-year-old donation and removing the “Confederate” inscription from the building.
University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos announced the decision Monday afternoon and released a video explaining the move. In a release on the university’s website, he had this to say:
“Many generations of students, faculty and staff have struggled with, argued about and debated with vigor this hall. We have asked time and again how can we have this symbol in the sky – a pediment is intended to draw a gaze upward – as part of our aspirational goals? Our debates and discussions have consistently returned over these many years to the same core question: Can we continue to strive for that diverse and inclusive community where we educate the leaders that our communities, nation and world so desperately need, with this hall as so created? My view, like that of so many in the past, and so many in our present, is that we cannot.”
The same release breaks down the money: “The university will pay the Tennessee Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy $1.2 million as a return in present value of $50,000 the organization contributed to the George Peabody College for Teachers in 1933 toward the building’s construction and naming rights. Vanderbilt will pay the sum with gifts from anonymous donors designated to be used specifically for this purpose. No institutional funds will be used to return the donation.”
Vanderbilt’s decision comes at the same time that activists continue their push to have Middle Tennessee State University’s Forrest Hall – named after former Ku Klux Klan leader and Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest – renamed.
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