Monday, September 25, 2023

An examination of the Forrest Hall Task Force


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Photo by Sarah Grace Taylor // Managing Editor

Following the influx of students and faculty demanding a name change of Forrest Hall in 2015, the university appointed a 16-person task force to give MTSU president Sidney McPhee a recommendation on keeping or scrapping the name.

The Forrest Hall task force, headed by history professor Derek Frisby, includes faculty, students, alumni and Murfreesboro community members. Of the 16, 15 serving on the committee will be eligible to vote on the suggested name while Tennessee State Historian Carroll Van West will serve as a non-voting member.

Before the Tennessee Board of Regents and, potentially, the Tennessee Historical Society, would consider any name change, these 16 members will have to agree.

Who are they:

Derek Frisby

Committee chairman and faculty member in the global studies and cultural geography department. Frisby specializes in Civil War history and has appeared on the National Geographic Channel’s Civil War series Civil Warriors

State Sen. Bill Ketron

MTSU alumnus and caucus chairman of state Senate Republicans. In an interview with the Daily News Journal, Ketron stated that he would like to see the name preserved in order to avoid rewriting history. He is also a supporter of the proposed bill to amend the Tennessee Heritage Act, making more stringent rules for changing names of buildings, statues, etc named after historical figures.

Tricia Farwell

President of the MTSU Faculty Senate, advertising/PR professor and faculty regent at the Tennessee Board of Regents. In addition to having the two-thirds approval from the Tennessee Historical Commission, the Tennessee Board of Regents must also approve the name change. The Tennessee Board of Regents is responsible for governing many of the state’s universities and all of its community college and technical schools. “We try to be on the forefront of identifying issues and helping to find a solution,” Farwell told the Daily News Journal.

Mike Liles
a community representative

Grant Marshall

a student representative and vice president of MTSU Graduate Student Association

Rev. James McCarroll

a community representative and pastor at First Baptist Church in Murfreesboro.

Erynn Murray

a student representative and vice president of the MTSU Graduate Student Association

Tony Beard

a 1997 graduate of MTSU, an alumni representative and president of the MTSU Alumni Association. Beard is the coordinator supervisor of financial services at Verizon.

Leonard Brown

a student representative and a political science junior. Brown told the DNJ that the title of Forrest Hall was “something that has plagued this campus for a long time.” Brown has also voiced his concerns on Twitter against the name of Forrest Hall, challenging MTSU.

Tom Clark

a community representative

Mark Doyle

a faculty representative and an associate professor of history.

David Otts

a faculty representative and professor in the University College

Lindsay Pierce

a student representative and president of the Student Government Association

Barbara Turnage

a faculty representative and professor of social work

Brian Walsh

an alumni representative

Carroll Van West

the Tennessee State historian and director of MTSU’s Center for Historic Presentation. Van West will be serving as a non-voting member of the panel.

What do they do:

The committee has held two “town hall” meetings since their official formation in November to hear the voices of the MTSU and Murfreesboro communities and one more public forum is set for March 24, from 5-7:30 p.m. in the Keathley University Center, but is only for organizations who wish to share a stance on the issue.

Protests so far:

Protesters initially tried to appeal to the committee by holding a mock funeral on Nov. 23 to gain the attention of the task force.

“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,” MTSU senior Dalton Winfree said.

However, some protesters have since lost hope in the task force.

After a white community member allegedly made inflammatory remarks to the African-American students sitting in front of him, MTSU senior Brandon Woodruff ignored the committee when he turned to cameramen in the room and said that his message was not for the task force but rather for the media. He addressed McPhee directly.
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 percent of your student body is much, much worse,” Woodruff said. “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? We will.”

This article appeared in our March 21 print edition. For more of our Forrest Hall coverage, click here.

For more news, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.

To contact News Editor Amanda Freuler, email

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