Kaler calls for renaming Coffman Union and other campus buildings

Kaler’s recommendations build off a report supporting name changes for buildings honoring leaders with racist and anti-Semitic pasts.

Passersby walk next to Coffman Union on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. 

Image by Jasmin Kemp

Passersby walk next to Coffman Union on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. 

by Austen Macalus

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler is recommending renaming Coffman Union and three other buildings on campus that were named after controversial figures. 

Kaler announced his recommendation to strip the names of Coffman Union, Nicholson Hall, Middlebrook Hall and Coffey Hall in a campus-wide email Friday — building off a 125-page report released last week that recommended renaming buildings of past University administrators who engaged in upholding segregation and the surveillance of Jewish students on campus. The proposal comes after a lengthy deliberation process looking at how to address the University’s racist and anti-Semitic actions uncovered by the “A Campus Divided” exhibit in fall 2017. 

The recommendations still must be approved by the University’s Board of Regents. Kaler will present his proposal to the board next week, with a final decision on naming expected before President-Designate Joan Gabel takes over in July. 

“I entered this process with an open mind, and at this stage I believe that changing the names is the right path for the University of Minnesota,” Kaler said in the email. “I would like to continue hearing from the University community and engaging with the descendants of the individuals after whom the buildings were named.”

Kaler has put forth temporary names for the four buildings in question: Student Union for Coffman Union; Agricultural Administration Building for Coffey Hall; 216 Pillsbury Drive for Nicholson Hall; and West Bank Residence Hall for Middlebrook Hall. 

Later this spring, Kaler and Provost Karen Hanson will appoint a permanent Advisory Committee on University History, which will help with possible renamings in the future, according to the email.