Approximately 150 people gathered in the Lane-Agri Park center to voice their opinions on the potential name change of Forrest Hall on Wednesday. This was the second of three open-forum meetings held by the Forrest Hall task force to receive public opinion, however, this meeting took a heated turn about halfway through when the crowd began to bicker.
As in the last meeting, people signed up in to speak and the task force heard their concerns, alternating between people for and against the name change. The meeting started with a familiar crowd of faculty, some alumni and students there to protest the name and community members and other alumni there to oppose the change.
Quickly, the meeting turned hostile when one speaker’s question sparked an argument in the crowd.
“Brown V. Board of Education was passed in 1954, but MTSU didn’t desegregate until 1961,” MTSU senior Dalton Winfree said. “Can we all do the simple math?”
After Winfree posed his rhetorical question, an unknown member of the audience said to the African-American students in front of him “I bet you can’t (do the math).” Immediately, he and the students in front of him yelled back and forth, arguing about “respecting their elders” and “bigotry.”
Though the crowd settled momentarily, the plea of MTSU senior Brandon Woodruff ultimately rocked the boat and changed the dynamic of the argument surrounding Forrest Hall.
“Our concern is not only with Forrest Hall, but more so with the university’s history of mistreating black students,” Woodruff said on behalf of the Talented Tenth, a progressive group on campus.
“President McPhee, we know there are wealthy alumni who put money into this school who you may be afraid to upset, but I promise you that 25% of your student body is much, much worse,” Woodruff added. “What must we do? Turn MTSU into the University of Missouri? Galvanize at your home on campus like the black students did in the 1960s and force you to resign because the issue is so unbearable? We will. Block the doors of Forrest Hall and sing old Negro spirituals while the ,media watches the school try to imprison its own students?”
After adding that he had been homecoming king and “knows how to win a campus-wide campaign,” Woodruff was joined by fellow members of the Talented Tenth Group in chanting “black lives matter.”
Ultimately, members of the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office and Murfreesboro Police Department escorted the group out into the hallway. Led by MTSU graduate student Joshua Crutchfield, demonstrators continued to chant “If we don’t get it, shut it down,” while monitored by about 12 law enforcement officers.
While the meeting continued uneventfully, the Talented Tenth lined the walls in the hallway, holding their various signs and holding up “power fists” as the meeting let out. Though MPD and RCSO had heavy presence at the meeting, both agencies declined to comment at the event.
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