By Hunter Ransom
The Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context recently announced a plan to change the name of Vardaman Hall in a committee-hosted listening session.
The committee also announced contextualization of Lamar Hall, Barnard Observatory, Longstreet Hall and George Hall, and has been seeking recommendations for the buildings since then. Final recommendations are due at the end of the semester.
In addition to these buildings, Antebellum sites like Croft Hall, Hilgard Cut, and the Lyceum were considered for contextualization. Barnard Observatory also falls into this group.
After the recommendations have been submitted, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter will make the final decision whether to move forward or not. The contextualization could take place soon after recommendations are submitted, but Vardaman Hall’s new name will have to wait.
“While the recommendation to rename Vardaman is a part of the CACHC, the renaming of Vardaman must occur through university processes,” Vitter said. “It is subject to [Institution of Higher Learning] approval, which is a process that will take longer than the life of the CACHC.”
The recommendations, driven by the buildings’ historic ties to slavery, received mixed reactions from an already unsettled audience after the Mississippi flag’s removal from campus in 2016. People representing both sides of the argument came forth.
Assistant Provost Dr. Donald Cole, who attended the session to answer questions, said both positions have truth to them, and it is the committee’s job to pull them together.
“These sites being considered have interesting histories that we think the university will benefit from.” Cole said. “We’ve learned much from looking at our history. To not look at it is to do ourselves a disservice.”
Some students who attended the session were concerned about whether or not the student body would have a say in the decision.
After the recommendations went public, some were under the impression that all of the buildings mentioned were going to be renamed. Vitter sent a letter to inform the public that this was not the case.
“Only one building was recommended for renaming – Vardaman,” Vitter said.
Despite mixed feedback about the project, the committee remains positive. Cole said it is an effort to move the university forward.
“We were built on a certain foundation, and we cannot change that foundation,” Cole said. “All we can do is look at it, own up to it, and make the best out of it. That’s what we intend to do.”
Cole also said the University of Mississippi is one of the first schools to consider this.
“I like it, because the only other universities examining their relationship with slavery and specific pasts are well-known Ivy League schools,” Cole said. “We are the leading edge in this type of research.”