Renaming SU Buildings #NotAgainSU
Renaming SU Buildings #NotAgainSU
Why this petition matters
With the assassinations of George Floyd (5/25/2020), AhmaudArbery (2/23/2020), Breonna Taylor (3/13/2020), Nina Pop (5/3/2020) and other members of the Black community, we have once again witnessed the manifestation of a centuries old problem for which no real action has been taken. While we observe what seems to be a unified condemnation of these horrible and racist acts, it is time we recognize that bold action to eradicate racism nationwide and on our own campus is long overdue.
Following in the footsteps a 2020 Daily Orange editorial fromSyracuse University alumnus Dr Harvey Strum, this petition calls for the renaming “of at least two buildings named after chancellors Charles Flint and William Graham. Their histories of racist and anti-Semitic policies provide the greatest reasons not to honor their legacies by adorning Flint Hall and Graham Dining Center with their names.” As Strum noted in his editorial, in 1956, Syracuse University named Flint Hall in honor of Charles Wesley Flint, who served as SU’s fifthChancellor from 1922-1936. During Flint's tenure, Vice Chancellor Graham and other administrators worked to restrict enrollment of Black and Jewish students and to enforce segregated student housing. In 1958, Graham Dining Hall was created in honor of William Pratt Graham, who served as SU Chancellor from 1937-1942. In the fall of 1937, he attempted to expel Black football and basketball player Wilmeth Sidat-Singh when Graham discovered the student was Black. Graham was a racist. Both Chancellors limited admission of women in the journalism program because of the fear that too many female students would ruin the reputation of the program.
The dedications of both buildings occurred in the mid 1950s, a period in US history that witnessed an intense rise in white supremacy. Also, the American Civil Rights Movement happened during this time to abolish institutional racial segregation and discrimination. In recent years, multiple SU students experienced racist attacks. Sadly, there aren't any actions taken against them. Instead, there is apathy. At the beginning of 2019, SU students of color were threatened by white men and women by handgun. It makes SU minority groups feel not safe and unwelcomed. Then several months later and continuously for months before the lockdown, hate crimes continued rising on campus, including racist graffitti targeting both black and Asian students. A movement led by Black students, marched and protested on campus for days, #NotAgainSU was their campaign.
Renaming the academic buildings after SU alumni who fought for justice and inclusion will be a step toward righting the wrongs of these past Chancellors. Several SU alumni stand out as potential candidates for the renaming of Flint and Graham Halls. In 1956, Black student-athlete Jim Brown, scored an NCAA-record 43 points in the football team's 61-7 rout of Colgate. Brown, a civil rights activist, has spent his entire life fighting injustice against African Americans. He would be a great candidate for one of the buildings, Another notable option is John DeVeaux, who, in 1958, became the first African-American president of the men's student government at SU. Both were students on campus during the era in which those buildings were named after Hill and Graham. Another greatcandidate is David Ifshin. Ifshin, a Jewish SU student and president of the National Student Association, in 1970 led anti-Vietnam War protests at SU and in Hanoi. Since women sufferedgender discriminiaton and segregation, Kathrine Switzer is another great option. Switzer, SU alum of the SI Newhouse School of Public Communication, was the first woman to run the Boston marathon and had a ground-breaking career as a sports journalist and activist for the inclusion of women in running.
Some may argue that the act of renaming buildings is not a significant gesture, but other institutions have pursued this action as a way to right institutional wrongs.
For instance, in the summer of 2020, Princeton University renamed two of their buildings due to the activism of a group of Princeton students, the Black Justice League, who led a 33-hour sit-in at Princeton’s President office in 2015. Princeton President Eisgruber recommended the change and Princeton’s Board of trustees took it seriously, The board gave a statement after deciding to change the name of one of their buildings, “We have taken this extraordinary step because we believe that Wilson’s racist thinking and policies make him an inappropriate namesake for a school whose scholars, students, and alumni must be firmly committed to combatting the scourge of racism in all its forms.”
Other colleges and universities are considering their connections to legacies of racial injustice through acts of renaming and retiring old names with racist legacies. Just as Syracuse University retired the racist Saltine Warrior mascot in 1978 due to Native student activism, it’s time to retire the names of Flint and Graham Halls and rename them. Thus, it is time for Syracuse University to take action to stand
stand behind its own vision statement
: “Syracuse University aspires to be a pre-eminent and inclusive student-focused research university, preparing engaged citizens, scholars, and leaders for participation in a changing global society.” Furthermore, the mission statement claims the SU is “Fostering a richly diverse and inclusive community of learning and opportunity.”Changing the names of the buildings will be another way to live up these vision and mission statements.
It’s time to raise our voice until we are heard and all parties, both Chancellor Kent Syverud and the 70-member Board of Trustees, take action to renaming these two buildings at SU. Let’s sign a petition today, and let’s live up to our SU Vision and Mission Statements. #NotAgainSU.