Photo by Sarah Grace Taylor / Sidelines Archive
Story by Brinley Hineman / News Editor and Sarah Grace Taylor / Editor-in-Chief
The Talented Tenth held a protest outside of the Student Union Building on Tuesday afternoon to express grievances with University President Sidney McPhee’s delay in requesting the Tennessee Historical Commission consider a name change of Forrest Hall.
The university sent a letter to the Tennessee Historical Commission last week to inform them of the university’s “intent to file a Petition for Waiver regarding Forrest Hall.” The letter comes three months after the Tennessee Board of Regents unanimously approved the change and five months after the Forrest Hall Task Force recommended a renaming.
Tuesday’s protest, the fifth protest on campus since 2015, attracted approximately 30 students who discussed the origin of Forrest Hall, the president’s role in the renaming process and other race-related issues among the student body.
“[Forrest Hall] is a remnant of MTSU’s racist past,” said MTSU Senior Dalton Winfree. “I’m not going to explicitly say this [delay] might have been the school’s plan…I do think this shows where the school’s interest lies.”
Students expressed their frustrations with the duration of the Forrest Hall fight, blaming the university for the length of the renaming process.
“I’ve been to all three [Forrest Hall Task Force] forums and I think it was just disgusting that President McPhee made us debate white supremacy in 2016,” one student shouted among the crowd.
McPhee told Sidelines on Tuesday that the university had been preparing to make the request since the TBR accepted the recommendation on June 23.
“Once they took that action, then, the staff and the university had to work through the process since we’ve never done this before, ” McPhee explained. “If we had [made the request] just MTSU, then the responsibilities fall as a system on us.”
McPhee said that he and the TBR “just wanted to do this right.” The university and TBR have to follow the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act to file a request and get a two-thirds majority vote from the commission in favor of the name change.
“[We] then took the time that would allow us to put together the necessary information from a legal perspective,” McPhee said. “If you read the law…it calls for several processes to be taken before you can submit a waiver.”
McPhee said the university plans to request the change officially in time for the February 2017 meeting of the Tennessee Historical Commission.
With the university’s impending disenfranchisement from the TBR, McPhee says he is not sure if the future governing board of the university will require another step of approval.
To learn more about Forrest and the debate, see our special section on Forrest Hall.