CHARLESTON -- No decision has been made on the future of the Douglas Hall’s name, however, the Eastern Illinois University president has met with student diversity groups across campus on the issue.
David Glassman said he has spoken with these multicultural groups on their interest or lack thereof in changing the name of the male-only residence hall during update Tuesday to the Faculty Senate.
People from the Latin American Student Organization, Black Student Union, EIU NAACP chapter, Douglas Hall residences, Student Senate and Staff Senate were consulted on the issue, Glassman said.
More than a month ago, Faculty Senate had drafted a resolution to Glassman calling for the name change based on concerns that it more commemorated Stephen A. Douglas who had a pro-slavery legislative record and not one of the famous debates he had with Abraham Lincoln in 1858 in Charleston, for which Lincoln and Douglas halls were named after.
The resolution "strongly" urged the university president to task a naming committee “to consider a revision to the names of Douglas Hall and Lincoln Hall to more specifically commemorate the 1858 debates for which the buildings were originally named in 1951.”
Glassman said from the information he has gathered from these groups, there are generally “mixed” feelings on the potential move. In those discussions, he found the conversation pivoted.
“Most of those discussions migrated from talking about the name of the residence hall to bigger issues of inclusion, diversity, respect and activities on campus,” he said.
These students brought up the cultural center with its dated and unsatisfactory furnishings. According to the EIU website, the center opened in 1970 at 1525 Seventh St., serving as “a positive force in the community to help bring together students throughout the campus as a place where students get that feeling of “home” for studying, relaxation, social events, retreats, etc.”
“They are saying, ‘You are talking about the name of a building, but here is the cultural center and walk in and tell me how you feel,’” Glassman said. “To some of them, that trumped a name.”
Robert Newman, Douglas Hall resident and Black Student Union member, thought the name should be changed.
“Even though a lot of people really don't care about it, a lot of people would still be uncomfortable about that,” Newman said.
He argued that some might question why they live in a place named after a man who made pro-slavery moves in his political career.
However, Newman was not a fan of the proposed name by those in Faculty Senate. As part of the resolution, senate members proposed naming Lincoln and Douglas halls the “Lincoln/Douglas Debate East and West halls.”
“It is too long for one, and it just doesn't make any sense,” Newman said. “If they really want to emphasize the debates, they need to think of a different way of doing that.”
When the issue over the name was brought up in 2010, the university sought to better emphasize the history behind the names with a display located in the Stevenson Hall lobby between the two buildings.
Another Douglas Hall resident J.T. Craig did not really care about the name.
“It doesn't matter to me,” Craig said. “It doesn't affect the way I live.”
To Craig, if the reasoning is to change the name because of views of the person, then a lot of buildings on campus should be renamed.
“A lot of buildings on campus were named off of people who I don't have the same views as,” he said.
“I am not hurt by it,” Craig later said.
He noted that others living in the residence hall probably felt the same way.
After repeated attempts to contact them by the JG-TC, Black Student Union, African Student Association, EIU NAACP chapter, and student government leaders neglected to comment on the issue.
At this time, the fate of the Douglas Hall’s name is still under review.
“I have not determined if I will move to a naming committee at this time,” Glassman said. “I am still collecting this data to see which direction I want to go, but I will tell you that these discussions have been some of the most fruitful discussion I have had.”