Vanderbilt University to Strike 'Confederate' From Dorm Name at Cost of $1.2 Million
Vanderbilt University will soon strike the word "Confederate" from the name of one of its dorms, but chipping away at history comes with a big price tag.
Per a 2005 court of appeals decision, the private college must shell out a hefty $1.2 million to the United Daughters of the Confederacy before chiseling the contentious word from Confederate Memorial Hall.
The sum is today's equivalent of the $50,000 the Tennessee Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy paid for naming rights and to help build the residence hall back in 1933.
Vanderbilt will pay the sum with gifts from anonymous donors designated to be used specifically for this purpose. No institutional funds will be used to return the donation, the school said in a statement Monday.
"Our debates and discussions have consistently returned over these many years to the same core question: Can we continue to strive for that diverse and inclusive community where we educate the leaders that our communities, nation and world so desperately need, with this hall as so created? My view, like that of so many in the past, and so many in our present, is that we cannot," Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said.
Zeppos went on to call the name "a symbol of exclusion and a divisive contradiction of our hopes and dreams of being a truly great and inclusive university."
The school has referred to the building only as "Memorial Hall" since 2002 after Vanderbilt attempted to rename the building in honor of the American men and women who have lost their lives in armed conflicts.
However, the UDC pursued legal action to retain the original name. A Tennessee appeals court ruled three years later that Vanderbilt could remove “Confederate” from the inscription only if the university returned the donation to the UDC at its current value.
The Board of Trust authorized Zeppos earlier this summer to take action to remove the name.
The move comes a year after many Southern states saw a groundswell of sentiment in favor of removing Confederate flags and statues from public buildings.
Others have argued against such removals, saying the flag is a part of history that deserves to be preserved. The chancellor addressed those arguments in Monday's announcement.
"In removing this pediment, we are not seeking to rewrite history or to avoid the questions that should be asked of Vanderbilt and of our nation. We are realizing the truth—that we have the privilege every day to teach, to learn and, indeed, to make history,” Zeppos said.