UMN students call for Coffman renaming policy at meeting

Members of an administrative committee on University history met with students on Tuesday to discuss building naming policy.

The front of Coffman Union on Sept. 19, 2017.

Jack Rodgers

The front of Coffman Union on Sept. 19, 2017.

by Helen Sabrowsky

Some University of Minnesota students called for a more specific campus building renaming policy during a Tuesday meeting with the President’s and Provost’s Advisory Committee on University History.

Minnesota Student Association members discussed the ongoing debate over whether to rename Coffman Union with committee members as well as University naming policies. Under current policy, the institution has the right to name and rename as they see fit.

University President Eric Kaler formed the President’s and Provost’s Advisory Committee on University History — tasked with finding appropriate modern responses to historical issues — after the exhibit “A Campus Divided” shed light on racist and anti-Semitic practices by some University personnel.

The committee is evaluating and drafting recommendations to potentially change University naming policy, said Monica Delgado, a member of the committee. The committee hopes to finalize its recommendations by April, Delgado said.

“We want a more specific policy on what renaming would look like, and we want a provision that includes student input,” said MSA At-Large Representative Apoorva Malarvannan, who attended the meeting.

Additionally, MSA would like to see more student participation on naming committees and plans to encourage the institution to research lesser-known University history, said Chloe Williams, the director of MSA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

“When it comes to institutional history … we want the University to include students in that conversation,” Malarvannan said.

The Beyond Naming subcommittee of the University History committee is focused on broadening the renaming topic to bring more awareness to University culture and history, Delgado said. The University History committee is interested in supporting research and projects like the “A Campus Divided” exhibit, she said.

“We look at Coffman Union because it is the student center,” Malarvannan said. “Renaming Coffman is just a first step, it’s part of this broader effort to recover and reconcile our history and uncover the unofficial history of the University.”

Earlier this month, MSA unanimously passed a resolution recommending that Coffman be renamed “Memorial Union.”