Community has heated debate over name change of Forrest Hall

Carley Gordon, WSMV TV, Murfreesboro, Tennessee


The debate over the statues, busts and buildings named after Nathan Bedford Forrest has been going on for months.

The last of three meetings to debate the name change of Forrest Hall was held Thursday night, and it may have seen the most heated moments yet.

Those who wanted to make a statement at the meeting were supposed to type out what they intended to say in 12-point type.

A former student and military member said while he was working in the ROTC program, the name of the building did not have a negative effect on the amount of people enrolled in the program.

“During my time frame, the numbers of officers we produced increased during those four years, so we had no issues or problems with that at that time,” said Lt.  Kevin Chaffin, who represents the military science chapter.

After the meeting was over, many of the protesters marched to the MTSU president’s home and continued to demonstrate.

If the task force recommends renaming the building, the university president and the Tennessee Board of Regents would have to sign off on it.

But has the decision already been made? MTSU has put out a “master plan” of the campus, forecasting what it might look like in the next 10 to 15 years.

The Daily News Journal reports that Forrest Hall isn’t even on the map. They said the master plan envisions an open space in that location.

Officials said this plan hasn’t been approved, and even if it is, the plans could still change.

“We shouldn’t have to be doing this. We shouldn’t have to be participating in this campaign. We should be focused on getting our education,” Joshua Crutchfield, a graduate student, said on Friday.

“If we can’t even remove these symbols, how are we going to progress as a country and move past the racism of our past?” Crutchfield added.

While some want the name changed, others like Rutherford County historian Greg Tucker believe there are other options.

“The community could probably even find the funding to replace the building,” Tucker said. “At the appropriate time, the military function of the building could be decommissioned. The name could be retired with the appropriate ceremony and they build another building. We need another ROTC building.”

Both sides said they were frustrated with MTSU President Sidney McPhee, but for different reasons.

“The university president seems unwilling to step up and say this is not the way we conduct ourselves. We don’t have to threaten, we don’t have to should, we don’t have to use profanity,” Tucker said.

“He really does value dollars over the actual students here, and that’s pretty apparent,” Crutchfield said.

Along with a name change, students are also demanding a formal apology. They want a plan in place by next year to increase black student retention and the black faculty ratio.

Students also asked that Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, be removed from the Forrest Hall task force because he is also the co-author of the heritage bill that would prohibit existing memorials to American involvement in armed conflicts to be removed or relocated.

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