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College Eliminates Class Names to Address Racist Past

August 7, 2018

Wesleyan College, a women’s liberal arts college in Macon, Ga., announced in late July that it will no longer allow class names because the practice has been “embroiled in historical controversy.”

Traditionally, each class of students is assigned one of four rotating class names, but in recent years the naming system has been a focal point of racial tensions on campus because three of the names -- the Green Knights, the Purple Knights and the Golden Hearts -- have links to the Ku Klux Klan. In the past, the link was more direct; the Classes of 1909, 1913 and 1917 chose “Ku Klux Klan” as their class name. The college’s statement did not address the specific references to the Klan but referred to “the South’s racist past.”

“The class names themselves have been embroiled in historical controversy. One name had clear connections to the South’s racist past, but the connection is less clear for the others,” the statement read in part. “Nevertheless, activities related to class names and traditions have fostered some of the campus’s racial tension in recent years. While the class structure served as a bonding tradition for many years, the same is not as true today.”

Wesleyan's statement affirmed that some traditions, including class colors, will continue, and mentioned the creation and later removal of sororities as a precedent for retiring the names.

“Just as sororities were retired in 1917, class names will be retired for current and future students,” the statement read. “Class colors of purple, green, red, and gold will continue to connect past, present, and future students."

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Emma Whitford

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