Photo by Sarah Grace Taylor / MTSU Sidelines Archive
Months after the Tennessee Historical Commission denied MTSU’s request to rename Forrest Hall, MTSU President Sidney McPhee announced that the university would not be fighting the decision.
On Wednesday, McPhee released a statement via email regarding the state of Forrest Hall, a building on the MTSU campus that houses the university’s Army Reserve Officers Training Corps program. Forrest Hall has been the root of controversy on the university’s campus for years due to the fact that it is named after Confederate Army General and Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest. Multiple protests against the name have been held on campus, leading to the formation of the Forrest Hall Task Force.
In February 2018, McPhee and other MTSU representatives testified before the historical commission in an attempt to change the controversial Forrest Hall name. After a 15-7 vote against the name change, the request was denied. The denial comes after MTSU first requested the name change from the commission in September 2016.
In the recent statement, McPhee explained that, due to a potential conflict of interest, the Tennessee Attorney General’s office would not be able to represent the school. Therefore, if MTSU wished to appeal the commission’s decision, the university would be forced to hire outside legal counsel. This expense would be too significant and costly for the university, according to McPhee. He did, however, explain that the changing of the name was still “the right thing to do.” McPhee’s full statement can be read below.
“Earlier this spring, the Tennessee Historical Commission denied our petition to rename Forrest Hall. During a conference call with the Tennessee Attorney General, he explained that a conflict of interest could exist if that office represented two state entities on opposing sides of a lawsuit. Therefore, if we were to appeal, we would be required to hire outside legal counsel at our expense. After extended deliberation with key stakeholders, I have decided not to appeal that decision. I continue to believe that renaming Forrest Hall is the right thing to do. However, the cost of an appeal would be significant and there is a real possibility that we would not be successful. Given these circumstances, I believe the money we would pay to retain outside counsel should instead be used toward our mission of supporting student success resulting in degree completion. Despite the fact that the name Forrest Hall will remain, our efforts to ensure that MTSU remains an inclusive place where all students and staff feel welcome will continue unabated.”
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