Demonstrators host mock funeral, ‘burying’ Forrest Hall


MTSU student protesters join hands outside of Forrest Hall after their final protest of the semester on Monday, November 11, 2015 (MTSU Sidelines/Meagan White).

Story by Devin Ross // Contributing Writer

Photo by Meagan White // Editor-in-Chief 

Demonstrators gathered on Middle Tennessee State University’s campus Monday afternoon in support of changing the name of Forrest Hall.

Forrest Hall, a campus building named after the Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, has been protested by MTSU students, faculty and alumni since this summer, following the Charleston AME shooting.

The protestors marched from the Student Union to Forrest Hall conducting chants and carrying a homemade coffin and an effigy in Gen. Forrest’s likeness. When they came to the end of their march, two members buried Forrest in effigy on the front steps, placing the deceased general’s likeness in the black, cardboard coffin.

MTSU President Sidney McPhee looked on as the group passed through campus.

“Today we are having a burial of Nathan Bedford Forrest to send a message to the task force who refuses to acknowledge his racist past,” said Senior Dalton Winfree, an organizer for the demonstrations.

The 16-person task force, created by McPhee to make a recommendation for the name, is made up of students, faculty and community leaders held one meeting to discuss what to do about the building’s name. They plan to host town hall meetings to hear the opinions of students and are set to make a recommendation to the university by April 2016. The leaders of Monday’s protest say that the group’s April deadline for a decision is not soon enough.

“They think that there is a win win in this situation and there is only one way to win in this situation,” Winfree said. “And that’s to remove the name.”

The task force is not designed to change the name of Forrest Hall, but rather to assess the situation and recommend a change to McPhee. From there, the university and the Tennessee Board of Regents have to approve and implement changes to the name, should the task force determine changes necessary.

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To contact News editor Amanda Freuler email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com

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5 Comments

  1. Rob Mitchell
    November 29, 2015
    Reply

    I believe society is served best when we work to build bridges rather than focus of the tearing down of walls ; especially walls built by others. Perhaps no greater example in our lifetime was the Berlin Wall. By building bridges of communication through the free exchange of thoughts and ideas the wall we would have torn down ourselves was removed by those who built it.

    Communication is the best way to break down walls of mistrust ,both real and imaginary. I believe that such an opportunity presents itself at MTSU today. In order to create a more positive and inclusive atmosphere on campus and to give a sense of empowerment to those who feel marginalized; I propose we refocus our energies into a more constructive process. My proposal is this:

    We focus our attention on a positive role model by renaming the New Student Building for a distinguished MTSU Alumnus worthy of such an honor. I propose the student union be named for Dr. Michael McDonald.

    Rev. Dr. Michael E. McDonald, JD, MPA is a lawyer, ordained minister, university law professor, writer, and teaches
    Political Science, Criminal Justice and Public Administration at Cumberland University. Michael was born in Buffalo, New
    York where he received the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gold Medal of Peace Award from the Buffalo Public Schools.

    He graduated from S. R. Butler High School in Huntsville, Alabama. Michael received his Associate in Arts in Law
    Enforcement and Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Middle Tennessee State University where he became the
    First African American to be Elected SGA/Student Body President and “Mr. MTSU” in the history of MTSU.

    He received his Master in Public Administration from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

    Michael earned his Juris Doctor (JD) degree from The John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

    He received the Thurgood Marshall/CLEO Legal Fellowship and was elected to the American Bar Association-House of Delegates International Convention in New York City.

    Michael attended Vanderbilt University, School of Divinity.

    Michael served as the Administrator of Elections for Nashville-Davidson County, Tennessee for over a decade and was the youngest person appointed to serve in that position.

    He was named Political Science “Professor of the Year” at Tennessee State University, and the recipient of the “Outstanding Teaching in Political Science Award,”from the National Political Science Association in Washington, D.C.

    He was appointed a delegate by the Attorney General of the United States to the US/China Legal Summit in Beijing, The People’s Republic of China.

    Michael served on the National Advisory Board of The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama and a national panel of university professors appointed by The College Board to score the SAT American Government and Politics essays.

    Dr. McDonald quietly changed MTSU through his calm demeanor and natural talent for bridges the gulf between disparate groups on campus. His quiet discussions with Dr. Scarlett developed the framework which permitted Dr. Walker to change the face of the Keathley Center without incident in 1989. I believe naming the New Student Union Building to honor Dr. McDonald is a project which would teach students a valuable life lesson. There is always greater lasting pride in building something as opposed to simply tearing something down. Our University should be known for it’s ability to build bridges as opposed to it’s ability to tear down walls.

  2. December 3, 2015
    Reply

    Did you honestly just cite the fall of the Berlin Wall as an example of NOT “tearing down walls”?? You need a metaphor coach, my friend.

  3. TayLa F.
    December 8, 2015
    Reply

    First off, after reading this article, I would like to say that it is so refreshing to see students exercising their right as citizens and students at MTSU to step up and vocalize their opinions and take the proper steps in order to make the change they wish to see, happen. To me, this is the kind of action our nation was founded on. When opinions differ, and we as the people want something done, we should go about it in the most professional manner that is appropriate but also displays the conviction we feel about the subject, and that is exactly what I see happening here.

    I personally feel that I am not educated enough on the subject of General Forrest and his contribution to the civil war to offer an opinion about whether or not I think his named should be removed from the building. However, from what I have seen and heard, it is very obvious to me that the students, alumni and faculty who participated in these demonstrations feel so strongly about it, it urges me to want to look more into the naming of Forrest Hall to better understand both sides of this situation. Overall, whether the building is named Forrest Hall or something else does not personally effect or offend me in any way. However, I do hope that change is made for the sake of the folks putting so much energy into protests and committees to see the change occur. If this gets overlooked, what else might authority figures overlook when presented with a want/need for change from the people?

  4. Rob Mitchell
    January 12, 2016
    Reply

    Perhaps you can assist me in improving this premise? “I believe society is served best when we work to build bridges rather than focus of the tearing down of walls ; especially walls built by others. Perhaps no greater example in our lifetime was the Berlin Wall. By building bridges of communication through the free exchange of thoughts and ideas the wall we would have torn down ourselves was removed by those who built it.

    Communication is the best way to break down walls of mistrust ,both real and imaginary. I believe that such an opportunity presents itself at MTSU today. In order to create a more positive and inclusive atmosphere on campus and to give a sense of empowerment to those who feel marginalized; I propose we refocus our energies into a more constructive process. “

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