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Clemson trustees vote to remove Calhoun name from honors college

Staff Report //June 12, 2020//

Clemson trustees vote to remove Calhoun name from honors college

Staff Report //June 12, 2020//

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The Clemson University board of trustees voted today to remove the name of John C. Calhoun from the university’s honors college, effective immediately. The trustees also requested authority to remove Ben Tillman’s name from Tillman Hall.

“Clemson University has a long-celebrated history of tradition and excellence, but we must recognize there are central figures in Clemson’s history whose ideals, beliefs and actions do not represent the university’s core values of respect and diversity,” Chairman Smyth McKissick said in a news release. “Today’s action by the board acknowledges that now is the time to move forward together as a more unified Clemson family in order to make our university stronger today and into the future.”

Official conversations about some of the names and history at Clemson have been taking place for several years, often growing louder when racist incidents across the state and nation were in the headlines. Calhoun and Tillman, whose outspoken views are now widely considered racist, were  politicians who served in numerous offices, Calhoun most prominently as vice president of the United States and Tillman as governor, according to information on the university website. The university is built on land where Calhoun lived. Tillman played a significant role in establishing the university in accordance with the will of Thomas Green Clemson, Calhoun’s son-in-law.

In 2015 the trustees established a history task force to “tell the full and complete history of Clemson,” the news release said. “During the past few years, the task force has taken several actions, including erecting historical markers, documenting Clemson founders’ biographies, and updating historical signage to better reflect the complete history. The board actions today were in keeping with its values including integrity, respect, diversity, patriotism, excellence, and self-reliance.”

In 2018, the board asked provost Robert Jones to lead a task force to study and make recommendations on ways to enhance the quality and relevance of the honors college, the news release said. The trustees approved the recommendations from the provost, endorsed by President Jim Clements, which include setting the goal of becoming  a nationally ranked, top-tier honors college; creating a dean position to oversee the college; creating a strategic plan for the college; and renaming the college to Clemson University Honors College.

Regarding the Tillman name, the board adopted a resolution requesting the S.C. General Assembly make a one-time exception to the state’s Heritage Act during the 2021 legislative session, the release said. This exception would give limited authority to the board to restore Tillman Hall to its original name of Main Building, often called “Old Main.”

“Our trustees’ leadership today sends a clear message that Clemson University intends to be a place where all our students, employees and guests feel welcome,” Clements said in the release. “Our work in this area is far from finished, but we are committed to building on the progress we have made in the areas of diversity and inclusivity as we strive to serve our entire state and the nation.”

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