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Michigan State to Rename Building That Honored Klan Member

September 8, 2020

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees is set to vote this week to rename a campus building after some officials learned the building’s namesake was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The measure has been recommended by the Trustee Committee on Academic Affairs.

The building was named after Stephen Nisbet, a late school principal, Michigan Education Association president, State Board of Education member and trustee at both MSU and Alma College.

The building was named after Nisbet in 1974. However, the board has highlighted information that strongly suggests Nisbet was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.

The book Everyday Klansfolk: White Protestant Life and the KKK in 1920s Michigan, which was published in 2011, mentions Nisbet as a Klan member. Furthermore, his membership card is on file at the Central Michigan University Clarke Historical Library, according to a document in the board’s meeting packet.

MSU president Samuel Stanley Jr. told the Lansing State Journal that Nisbet's KKK connections were recently brought to his attention, and after verifying the information, he made a recommendation to the board to remove Nisbet's name. A spokesperson for the university told the Journal that Stanley became aware of the Klan connections within the last six months.

Michigan State policy states that campus buildings should be named after individuals whose life, work or activities exemplify the university’s values.

“While Mr. Nisbet’s dedication and contributions to the State of Michigan are significant, his involvement with the KKK cannot be ignored, and these activities directly conflict with the values and mission of Michigan State University,” the recommendation reads.

The building is set to be renamed 1407 S. Harrison. It currently houses human resources offices and parts of the College of Social Sciences.

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Lilah Burke

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