CLEMSON, SC (WSPA) – The Clemson University Board of Trustees approved changing the name of the Clemson’s Honors College, as well as are requesting authority from the South Carolina General Assembly to restore Tillman Hall back to its original name.
According to a news release, the board approved changing the name of Clemson’s Honor College — named Calhoun Honors College since 1982 — to the Clemson University Honors College, effective immediately.
During their meeting Friday morning, the trustees also approved a resolution “requesting authority from the South Carolina General Assembly to restore Tillman Hall to its original name of the Main Building, commonly called, ‘Old Main.'”
“Clemson University has a long-celebrated history of tradition and excellence, but we must recognize there are central figures in Clemson’s history whose ideals, beliefs and actions do not represent the university’s core values of respect and diversity,” Chairman Smyth McKissick said. “Today’s action by the Board acknowledges that now is the time to move forward together as a more unified Clemson Family in order to make our university stronger today and into the future.”
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According to the release, the board asked Provost Robert Jones to lead a task force to study, as well as make recommendations on ways to enhance the quality and relevance of the honors college in 2018.
The board approved the recommendations from the provost, endorsed by President Jim Clements, which included setting the goal of becoming a nationally ranked college, creating a dean position to oversee the college, creating a strategic plan for the college and renaming the college to Clemson University Honors College.
“The Board also adopted a resolution respectfully requesting the South Carolina General Assembly make a one-time exception to the state’s Heritage Act during the 2021 legislative session. This exception would give limited authority to the Board to restore Tillman Hall to its original name of the Main Building. The resolution further affirms that the Board will not be seeking any further exceptions from the Heritage Act beyond this request.”
“Our Trustees’ leadership today sends a clear message that Clemson University intends to be a place where all our students, employees and guests feel welcome,” President Clements said. “Our work in this area is far from finished, but we are committed to building on the progress we have made in the areas of diversity and inclusivity as we strive to serve our entire state and the nation.”
7 News was on campus on Friday and learned what the community thinks about the changes.
“Clemson, I think, has a very special way of bringing you in and making you feel like you were meant to be there,” Leah Barwick said.
Leah Barwick is a recent graduate of Clemson University and comes from a long line of Tigers.
“I’m fifth generation, so I guess, to me, Clemson has always been a second home,” Barwick said.
But that home is about to become a little different.
On Friday, Clemson’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously to change the name of its honors college from the Calhoun Honors College to the Clemson University Honors College.
Since 1982, the honors college was named after former vice president John C. Calhoun, who owned nearly 80 slaves at the Fort Hill plantation in the center of campus.
The board also approved a motion that requests Clemson’s signature Tillman Hall be given back its original name, “The Main Building,” commonly called “Old Main.”
Tillman Hall was named for Ben Tillman–a known white supremacist–but, because that name is protected under the Heritage Act, to change it, the state General Assembly must give its approval.
Barwick was on campus Friday, having graduation pictures taken in front of what she knows as Tillman Hall. Hearing that it could soon change to something else was a hard pill for her to swallow.
“Tradition is a big thing for me,” she said.
But Barwick said she understands why.
“It’s important for everyone to feel welcome,” she said.
And others agree.
“I’m proud of them. They need the change,” Evendor Thompson said. “It should’ve happened a long time ago, but it’s good that it’s happening now.”
The General Assembly is not scheduled to meet until 2021 to make a decision about Tillman Hall’s name change.
20,000 students signed a petition to change the name of Calhoun Honors College, including former Clemson football player Deshaun Watson.