Dear Commons Community,
Vanderbilt University in Tennessee will remove an inscription from one of its dormitories, and return an 83-year-old donation to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. As reported in The Atlantic:
“The chancellor of Vanderbilt University, Nicholas Zeppos, announced Monday the school would remove “Confederate Memorial Hall,” the name engraved in the stone above the main entrance of a residence hall. Zeppos called the inscription a “symbol of exclusion” in a statement to the university, a private undergraduate and graduate college in Nashville.
“It spoke to a past of racial segregation, slavery, and the terrible conflict over the unrealized high ideals of our nation and our university, and looms over a present that continues to struggle to end the tragic effects of racial segregation and strife,” Zeppos said.
The dorm will be renamed Memorial Hall, the name that has been used in all campus housing assignments, websites, maps and other materials for more than a decade, according to the school.
Vanderbilt will return $1.2 million to the Tennessee chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the present value of the $50,000 the group donated to the school in 1933 for the construction of the dorm. The United Daughters of the Confederacy is a national organization of female descendants of Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Back then, the dorm was part of the George Peabody College for Teachers, an independent institution that merged with Vanderbilt in 1979, according to the school. The inscription has been in place since the dorm’s construction in 1935.
The payment complies with a 2005 court ruling in the state. In 2002, Vanderbilt tried to rename the building and drop the inscription, but the Tennessee branch United Daughters of the Confederacy sued the school, arguing it was breaching a contract. A Tennessee appeals court ruled the school could only remove the inscription if it returned the 1933 donation to the group at its value in current dollars. But “Vanderbilt chose to use those funds … for other purposes rather than enrich an organization whose values it does not share,” the school said.
The $1.2 million payment will come from anonymous donors who gave specifically for the removal of the inscription, the school said.”
A bit late but a good move by Vanderbilt.