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Tillman always: why we should change ourselves, not Tillman Hall

Tillman Hall has been the topic of controversy upon campus since Fall 2014.
Savannah N. Miller/Photo Editor

Tillman Hall has been the topic of controversy upon campus since Fall 2014.

For the past year or so, there have been talks and protests all over campus calling for the renaming of Tillman Hall. “Concerned students and faculty” say changing the name would be great idea and a symbol of our university’s acceptance of all people from every walk of life and skin color. I believe they are wrong.

Why should we change the name of our school’s most beautiful and beloved building? What good will it do? If we really desire to bring change and acceptance to Clemson University, it will involve the people who are in and around Clemson right now; not about a white supremacist that died in 1918.

We cannot change history. We cannot change how things happened or how one man acted over a century ago. The only thing we can do is move forward and ensure that everyone, no matter his or her skin tone, feels at home at Clemson. The best way to do that is to focus on our current faculty, staff and, most importantly, student body, considering how they act, think and perceive those from everywhere on earth. Our students need to be able to see through someone’s skin color and judge him or her on character and actions rather than skin tone.

Activists who want the name changed argue that newcomers and current students of Clemson will shy away from our school because they do not feel comfortable with the name of our most famous building being that of a white supremacist.

Oh, I’m sorry? Did you ever personally experience any persecution, ill will, racial slurs or judgment from Benjamin Tillman himself? This man died in 1918 so the only way you could possibly answer yes to the above question is if you are 97 years of age or older. I doubt you are. The Clemson student body as a whole lacks diversity, and that I believe is what is causing all this rubbish.

If we want everybody to feel welcome here we need to be accepting of all. I am a sophomore, and I can honestly say that I have never met anyone — newcomer, friend or visitor — that feels “unwelcome” at Clemson University because of Tillman Hall. Governor Haley said it best when asked about the possible renaming of Tillman: “You learn to accept history for what it is, but you also try to change history … changing the name of Tillman Hall doesn’t erase the history … what we need to do is look forward instead of back.” She could not be any more correct.

Schilletter Dining Hall is named after August Schilletter, a mess steward who embezzled money from the school for fifteen years until he was finally caught. The big wigs of the school kept it so quiet that he got a building named after him. You want to change the name of this building too? Does this also offend you? Make you feel victimized?

I am not trying to be too harsh on those that want to bring about change on Clemson’s campus and rename Tillman. I understand where they are coming from. America right now may not be where it should be as far as accepting people from all walks of life, but we the youth are the future of America, and we should be the ones to bring about that change. Because we know better than our forefathers —better than Benjamin Tillman. We know that ALL lives matter and that everyone is created equal in the eyes of the Lord.

This is why we need to focus on bringing about that change in how we act, and interact with our fellow classmates and teachers from all walks of life. Changing the name of a building is not the best way to go about doing that.

If you do not feel welcome, or have experienced racial persecution at Clemson, it is not because of a building named after a man who has been six feet under for nearly 100 years; it is because of words said to you, or a feeling you got from the people that are involved with and surround Clemson today, in 2016, and if any change should happen, it should start with those people, not the building.

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