MTSU students, faculty, alumni and organizations have protested the name of Forrest Hall off-and-on for the last half century. Most recently, the issue became relevant on campus in the summer of 2015 after Confederate imagery was brought to the forefront by a shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
June 17, 2015:
A mass shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter, who killed nine African-Americans, is believed to be Dylann Roof, 21. Roof, who was indicted on 33 charges related to the shooting, sparked controversy around Confederate symbolism due to him being photographed repeatedly with the second Confederate Navy Jack flag. Many associate this flag and other symbols of the Confederacy with slavery and the oppression of African-Americans, but defenders say they represent Southern pride and heritage.
June 23, 2015:
Students, faculty and alumni of MTSU start the Facebook page “Change the Name of Nathan Bedford Forrest Hall” and start a petition to change the name. The petition includes a call to the university president and other officials.
“We call on President Sidney A. McPhee, the State Legislature, the Board Of Regents, the SGA, and the Department of the Army to support our campaign and help to promote true diversity on MTSU’s campus,” the petition reads.
The same week, the group plans and hosts the first meeting of activists to change the name of Forrest Hall.
August 27, 2015:
Students, faculty and alumni march across campus in protest of the name, ending at Forrest Hall.
The march began with speeches at the Student Union and ended with university president Sidney McPhee announcing the beginning of a student/faculty committee to determine whether or not the name should be changed in front of Forrest Hall.
Among the protesters was philosophy professor Michael Principe who called the movement the most “pervasive” of its kind.
November 10, 2015:
MTSU releases a list of committee members for the Forrest Hall Task Force, including faculty members, alumni, students and a local politician.
The committee plans to give recommendation to McPhee in April 2016 and announces town hall meetings to hear community voices.
November 25, 2015:
Protesters host a mock funeral for Forrest to “bury the name” of Forrest Hall.
February 17, 2016
Campus protesters and community supporters clash at second of three open meetings before the task force.
A spat breaks out when a white community member makes racially charged remarks at African-American student protesters.
Then a protest, led by senior Brandon Woodruff, breaks out in the meeting.
Students then chant “if we don’t get it, shut it down,” as they are escorted into the hallway by Rutherford County sheriff’s deputies and Murfreesboro police.
March 3, 2016
The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act passes the state house, creating stricter guidelines on the renaming process of buildings or other historical properties, including Forrest Hall, starting in July 2016.
This article appeared in our March 21 print edition. For more of our Forrest Hall coverage, click here.
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