Letter to the Editor: The time to rename Coffman is now

Let’s write this new chapter of our institution’s history together.

Letter to the Editor

The Board of Regents announced that they will be holding a last-minute special meeting this Friday in McNamara Alumni Center at 1 p.m. to discuss and, more than likely, act on President Eric Kaler’s recommendations to un-name Coffman Union, Coffey Hall, Nicholson Hall and Middlebrook Hall.

And now, it’s time to take action into our own hands and collectively stand up to injustice. As students who are aware of the deeply hurtful, racist and anti-Semitic legacy of the administrators that these buildings are named after, we need to let the Board of Regents know that we reject memorializing any legacy of exclusion and discrimination, and we stand firmly in support of un-naming these four buildings. So, we are organizing a silent sit-in at this special Board of Regents meeting, and we’re asking all of you to show up.

The effort to un-name and reclaim our campus spaces has been in the making for almost two years. MSA has already raised its voice on this issue with our resolution, petition, pledge, statement of support and response to the Board of Regents. We must now ensure that the board hears us.

So far, the student voice has not been at the forefront of this conversation. Kaler has offered his recommendation to the Board of Regents to un-name Coffman Union, Coffey Hall, Nicholson Hall and Middlebrook Hall. His recommendation stemmed from the findings of the Task Force on Building Names and Institutional History, co-chaired by College of Liberal Arts Dean John Coleman and Professor Susanna Blumenthal. Coleman and Blumenthal presented on the guiding principles, the academic process and the conclusions of their 125-page report. The discussion that ensued between members of the Board of Regents was deeply disappointing. Many Regents expressed sentiments that disregarded the work and academic integrity of University faculty members, the serious charges of anti-Semitism and racism levied against the administrators in question and the wishes of the student body as a whole. The full discussion can be found here.

So show up. Sit in. Let’s write this new chapter of our institution’s history together. And this time, let’s get it right.

Tala Alfoqaha is Diversity and Inclusion Director for the Minnesota Student Association.

This letter to the editor has been lightly edited for clarity and style.