Friday, April 12, 2024

MTSU students to speak at Tennessee Historical Commission meeting about Forrest Hall

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Featured Photo from Noah McLane

Story by Noah McLane

MTSU students will give public comment Friday, April, 19 at a Tennessee Historical Commission meeting in regard to MTSU’s appeal of a state law blocking the university from changing Forrest Hall’s name to ROTC Building. 

The event will be held at 9 a.m. at Sumner County school’s central office in Gallatin. 

At a meeting on Feb. 1, SGA President Michai Mosby said he plans on speaking. 

MTSU’s chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America also plans on sending a contingent, according to President Dutsch Dorman. 

The University has officially been fighting to rename the building since 2015, when MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee ordered the creation of the Forrest Hall task force, a collection of professors and university stakeholders. The task force was charged with determining “if a name change was necessary for MTSU’s Forrest Hall,” according to a memo from task force chair, Dr. Derek R. Frisby, to President McPhee. 

The task force ultimately recommended the university move forward with the name change. 

Except there was and still is one Everest-sized hurdle—changing the name is illegal. 

In 2013, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Heritage Protection Act which, among other things, rendered it illegal to change the name of any public monument relating to a “historical conflict.” 

There is, however, a provision that allows public entities to petition for a waiver to the law by demonstrating change is necessary “based on historical or other compelling public interest” according to the law in Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-1-412.

MTSU embarked on a tedious voyage through a sea of public records and historical documents that might make even a seasoned bureaucrat nauseate.  Gathering these materials and notifying the community took time, and in that time a resistance to renaming Forrest Hall began to surface. 

A local chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans penned an impassioned letter to the commission. The MTSU Military Science Alumni Chapter also argued against the name change in a letter to the commission, which ultimately dashed MTSU’s chances of getting a waiver to the controversial law.

The building’s namesake, Nathan Bedford Forrest, was a slave trader turned Confederate Brigadier General known for his daring raids and cheeky strategies on and off the battlefield, he also faces accusations of being a founding member and first Grand Wizard of the infamous hate group, the Ku Klux Klan.

To learn more about why the university cannot simply change the name or the name change process since the passage of the TNHPA, check out Sidelines past coverage on the topic.

Noah McLane is a contributing writer for MTSU Sidelines.

To contact News Editor Alyssa Williams and Assistant News Editor Zoe Naylor, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com.

For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on X and Instagram at @mtsusidelines.

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