The Clemson University Board of Trustees voted unanimously on June 12 to remove the name of John C. Calhoun from the university’s honors college, after students and alumni reignited a long-running campaign to rename the college due to Calhoun’s legacy as a slave owner and proponent of slavery, the Greenville News reported. The college will now be called the Clemson University Honors College, a university statement said.
The Board of Trustees created a task force in 2018 to “enhance the quality and relevance of the honors college,” which recommended the college be renamed, the statement said. The board was set to vote on that recommendation in July but moved up the vote because the trustees wanted to make a “clear statement” in response to the recent killing of black Americans by police officers, President Jim Clements said during a press conference.
The trustees also requested that the South Carolina General Assembly make an exception to the state’s Heritage Act during the 2021 legislative session to allow the university to rename Tillman Hall, named for Benjamin Tillman, a former South Carolina governor and white supremacist. The law prohibits changes to the names of local and state buildings and monuments that pay tribute to historical figures, unless the state Legislature approves the change in a two-thirds vote.
“The board absolutely felt it was the right time now to make a very strong statement about values and what this university stands for, and inclusion is a significant part of that,” Clements said during the conference. “The George Floyd horrible death expedited the discussion … I believe it would’ve happened at some point. But I’m proud and thankful of the board that they decided that today.”
Reclaim and Rename, a student-led group advocating for Clemson to remove the names of figures who engaged in white supremacy and endorsed slavery, said in a statement posted to Instagram on June 12 that the university “has embarked on a better path for our future,” but the name change efforts are only the beginning.
“A name change is a symbolic victory,” the statement said. “Now comes the difficult work of building a community where all voices are heard, where all students can thrive and where black lives matter.”