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Letter to the editor: Removing Calhoun’s name from Clemson’s Honors College

ltte calhoun

We, the undersigned faculty members of Clemson University, are writing to express our support for the students and alumni who are currently requesting the removal of John C. Calhoun’s name from Clemson’s Honors College.

John C. Calhoun was an influential statesman in many ways. But Calhoun’s greatest legacy to our time is his tireless defense of slavery as a “positive good” and the use of his extensive political power to protect it. His support for white supremacy was clear and uncompromising.  Removing Calhoun from the name of the Honors College falls far short of erasing his presence on this campus. But let us remember that Calhoun died nearly fifty years before Clemson University came into existence, and that he had no role whatsoever in founding the University, let alone the honors college, which was founded in the 1960s.

More importantly, Calhoun’s legacy, as an advocate for slavery with ownership rights over dozens of enslaved people, is a painful daily reminder and a symbol of ongoing inequities to many of our students both past and present. We agree with these students that this legacy starkly contradicts the University’s mission of teaching “tolerance and respect for others.” This should have been clear in 1981, when the Honors College’s name was changed; it is more than clear now. Clemson needs to acknowledge its history, but we also must navigate through a changing present toward a better future.

How can we “aspire to create a diverse community” when we choose to honor Calhoun? What kind of community do we hope to build if we cannot recognize the callousness expressed in continuing to keep his name on our Honors program? Do we wish to commemorate and honor that kind of past, or do we wish to work together to build a diverse community? We, as faculty members, prefer the latter.

And, as a campus community, the choice is ours to make. The students and alumni who authored the petition explain correctly that the Honors College name does not fall under the protection of the South Carolina State Heritage Act. We cannot understand the reasoning of any administrators who may claim that they have no say in the matter. Removal or not, this is, as the students say, “an active decision,” for which we are all responsible. Today, we have the option to make the right choice.

We therefore join with the petition signatories in asking Clemson University and the Honors College to stop commemorating Calhoun’s legacy of white supremacy in the name of this important undergraduate institution. Doing so, we ask the University to honor its promise, made in its strategic plan, to create an inclusive environment. We are grateful for the students’ initiative, and we will continue to advocate on their behalf.

Faculty may continue to sign the petition here.

Petition Signers

Joseph Mai

Pauline de Tholozany

Christina Wells

Michael Sears

Maya Hislop

Michael Meng

Sean Sather-Wagstaff

Peter Laurence

Elizabeth Carney

Michelle Boettcher

Christopher Grau

Nic Brown

Walt Hunter

Victor J. Vitanza

Johannes Schmidt

Todd May

Jonathan Beecher Field

Andrew Whitehead

Elizabeth Jemison

Gabriel Hankins

Kim Manganelli

Brookes Brown

Angela Naimou

Claudio Cantalupo

Pamela Mack

Shannon Robert

Brian McGrath

Debi Switzer

Ben Stephens

Megan MacAlystre

Andrew H. Mannheimer

Patrick H. Raymark

Chelsea Clarey

Chris Pagano

James McCubbin

Cynthia Pury

Andrea Feeser

Lucian Ghita

Jillian Weise

Keri Crist-Wagner

Linda Li-Bleuel

Dominic Mastroianni

Meredith Teilhet Morris

Erin M. Goss

John M. Coggeshall

Steve Marks

Cody Gathers

Kevin Niehaus

Cindy Burke

Sarah M. Cooper

Susanna Ashton

Caroline Dunn

Becky Becker

Kathy Clark

Mikel W. Cole

Cynthia Haynes

Robert Sinclair

Julie P. Martin

Catherine Mobley

Linda Dzuris

Shanna Hirsch

Anderson Wrangle

Leo Gugerty

Eliza Gallagher

Matt Hooley

Jumah Taweh

Kendra Johnson

Lisa Rapaport

Michael LeMahieu

Raquel Anido

Kerrie Seymour

Keith Lee Morris

Daniel E. Wueste

Bart P. Knijnenburg

Danielle Herro

Richard Amesbury

Benjamin White

Edward J. Rock

Richard Tyrrell

Tiffany D. Creegan Miller

Gabriela Stoicea

Monica Massei

Jessica L. Serrao

Kelsey Sheaffer

Jessica Kohout-Tailor

Jenessa McElfresh

Megan Eatman

Aga Skrodzka

David Neyens

Rhondda Robinson Thomas

Elizabeth Rivlin

Megan Che

Lisa Robinson

David Antonini

David Coombs

Mandolin Bright

Timothy Green

Bobby Hollandsworth

Mickey Lauria

Allen Guest

Elizabeth Kaszynski Gilmore

Elena Dimitrova

Julia Brumaghim

Melissa Vogel

Amy N. Monaghan

Bonnie Holaday

Janice Lanham

J. Drew Lanham

Juan Carlos Melgar

Diane Perpich

Abigail Allen

Tony Cawthon

Rhonda Reigers Powell

April Pelt

Kathleen Nalley

Natasha Croom

Rachel Wagner

James Cross

Frederick Buskey

Casey Derieux

Bruce Ransom

Reginald Wilkerson

Matthew Brownlee

Wayne Freimund

Stephen Lewis

Francis McGuire

Brent Hawkins

Adam Omelianchuk

Lauren Duffy

Gretchen Matthews

Allen N Swords

Christina N. Hung

Pauline Matthey 

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