Vanderbilt pays $1.2M to remove 'Confederate' from dorm name

AP News
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Posted: Aug 15, 2016 4:54 PM
Vanderbilt pays $1.2M to remove 'Confederate' from dorm name

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt University announced Monday that it will pay more than a million dollars to remove an inscription containing the word "Confederate" from one of its campus dorms.

The private university has referred to the Confederate Memorial Hall simply as "Memorial Hall" since 2002, but was blocked in court from changing the name chiseled on the building because it was constructed with the help of a $50,000 gift from the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1933.

Under the agreement, Vanderbilt will pay $1.2 million, the equivalent of the gift made 83 years ago, to the organization's Tennessee chapter. In exchange, the chapter will relinquish its naming rights to the building.

Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said in an open letter that ever since joining the university as a law professor in 1987, "the residence hall bearing the inscription Confederate Memorial Hall has been a symbol of exclusion, and a divisive contradiction of our hopes and dreams of being a truly great and inclusive university."

Vanderbilt says the money will come from anonymous donors.

The move comes as Tennessee lawmakers have acted to make it more difficult to remove Confederal symbols and statutes from public places.

About 30 miles to the southeast, Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro wants to remove the name of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from one of its buildings. The public higher education system overseeing the school endorsed the change last month, but the proposal faces a tougher hurdle when it reaches the Tennessee Historical Commission.

Under the "Tennessee Heritage Protection Act" passed earlier this year, it now takes a vote of at least two-thirds of the commission to approve changing or removing historical markers. That's an increase from the previous requirement of a simple majority vote.

Calls to remove Confederate imagery from public places multiplied across the South after last year's slaying of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. A white man espousing racist views and who posed in a photo with a Confederate flag has been charged with murder in the killings.

Following the church shooting, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said he supported removing the Capitol bust of Forrest, who is famous for his exploits as a Confederate cavalry general and amassed a fortune as a plantation owner and slave trader in Memphis before the Civil War.

After the defeat of the Confederacy, the newly formed Ku Klux Klan elected Forrest its honorary grand wizard, though he publicly denied being involved. Two years later, he ordered the Klan to disband because of its members' increasing violence.

The Forrest bust remains in the lobby between the House and Senate chambers at the state Capitol.