More than 200 Clemson students and alumni have signed a petition seeking to change the name of Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College to “Clemson Honors College.”
Calhoun Honors College is named for John C. Calhoun, who was vice president of the United States under two presidents and a prominent South Carolina statesman in the 19th century. He was also a slave owner who defended white supremacy.
Now, the Clemson Chapter of the Southern Poverty Law Center on Campus is saying that the Calhoun name in association with the honors college glorifies a racist point of view.
Clemson’s campus used to be a cotton plantation, home to 70 to 80 slaves and John C. Calhoun, who owned the plantation. His family members donated the land to the state of South Carolina years after Calhoun died.
Calhoun’s home, Fort Hill, is preserved on campus.
“I just remember from primary school and different things growing up…we talked about it in the history class and different things like that,” said Clemson student Andrew King when asked about Calhoun.
Clemson’s own website states Calhoun was “an ardent believer in white supremacy.”
“I feel like if our school wants to embrace diversity, then they should agree with the petition and get his name off of the honors college,” said Clemson student Aniya Solomon.
King told 7 News that he dosen’t think Calhoun’s support of slavery should invalidate his other accomplishments.
“To face it, we’re in South Carolina. We’re in the deep south, and this entire area of America was involved in the Civil War one way or another,” he said. “Many of our historical figures did have something to do with….slavery.”
The president of the Clemson Chapter of the Southern Poverty Law Center said the desire to remove Calhoun’s name from the honors college is not an attempt to erase history, but rather an attempt to grapple with evils in the past that should not be glorified today.
A spokesperson from Clemson University said their general counsel is reviewing the procedure for the name change process.