Friday was a big day for Clemson University.
The Clemson Board of Trustees called an emergency meeting on Friday morning and unanimously voted to remove the name of John C. Calhoun from the name of Clemson University’s honor college.
The honors college is now known as “Clemson University Honors College.”
The school’s BOT will also request the South Carolina General Assembly to remove the name of Ben Tillman from Tillman Hall and restore its original name of the Main Building. Clemson’s most iconic building on campus has been called Tillman Hall since 1946.
“It is an important day for Clemson. It is an historic day for Clemson,” President Jim Clements said Friday morning during a Zoom conference call with the media following the BOT’s decisions. “I am really proud of board of trustees and the incredible leadership they have shown.”
The BOT will request the general assembly grant them a one-time authority to rename Tillman Hall. The SC General Assembly has to approve it because Tillman Hall is attached to South Carolina’s Heritage Act, which requires a two-thirds vote from the general assembly to change any name of historical structures in the state.
Prior to being named Tillman Hall, Clemson students called the Main Building, “Old Main.”
“Today, the board made a very clear statement about our values,” Clements said. “In my discussions with the board since I have been at Clemson, it is all about values, the Clemson family, respect, inclusion, diversity. And today was a statement about values.”
Friday’s news comes after former Clemson wide receiver Deandre Hopkins, along with former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, started a petition to have Calhoun’s name removed from the honors college at Clemson because Calhoun was a known slave owner. The two started the petition this past Monday.
Hopkins, who now plays for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, then came out and was vocal on social media about Tillman’s name being removed from the Main Building on campus, as well.
Clemson students and others have been asking for Clemson to remove the name of Tillman from Tillman Hall going back to 2015. Clemson began a history task force back in 2015. The BOT was originally planning to discuss the Calhoun name on the honors college later this summer, but the board decided to move it up and made its decision on Friday.
“In 2015, the board of trustees created a history task force to fully tell our history and our complete history,” Clements said. “We have made a lot of progress since then.
“We put up historical markers. Updated the bios of our founders and today was a significant step in again related to values, inclusion and making sure everyone at Clemson feels welcome and as a part of the Clemson Family.”
Calhoun was the Vice President of the United States from 1825-’32. Calhoun, whose family own the land that is now Clemson University, was a known supporter of slavery when he was in office.
Tillman, a United States Senator (1895-1918) and former Governor of South Carolina (1890-’94), was known as a white supremacist in his day and was actively against allowing black Americans any civil rights. Tillman played a big role in the start of Clemson University in 1889.
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