9-4-18 Student Government

LSU Student Government office operates during normal hours in the LSU Student Union on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018.

Student Senate unanimously passed two resolutions concerning the evaluation of University building names on Aug. 16.

The first issue on the agenda was to demonstrate Student Senate support for the renaming of 13 buildings on campus. The buildings were researched by student activist organization Democracy at Work LSU and LSU College Democrats, and include any namesakes who supported the institution of slavery, served in the Confederacy, marginalized Black voters or otherwise promoted white supremacy.

The bill recognized the following building namesakes:

  • P.G.T. Beauregard, brigadier general in the Confederate Army
  • David F. Boyd, major in the Confederate Army and LSU president (1865-1880, 1884-1886)
  • Murphy J. Foster, 31st governor of Louisiana (1892-1900)
  • George Mason Graham, 1st chairman of the Board of Trustees for Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and founder of the Rapides Horse Guards
  • Andrew Jackson, 7th president of the United States (1829-1837)
  • William Preston Johnston, aide-de-camp to Jefferson Davis and LSU president (1880-1883)
  • Edmund Kirby Smith, general in the Confederate Army
  • Samuel H. Lockett, major in the Confederate Army
  • James William Nicholson, sergeant in the Confederate Army and LSU president (1883-1884);
  • John M. Parker, 37th governor of Louisiana (1920-1924)
  • Francis W. Smith, soldier in the Confederate Army and 1st LSU commandant of cadets;
  • William C. Stubbs, cavalryman in the Confederate Army
  • Zachary Taylor, 12th president of the United States (1849-1850)

“Student Government recognizes that historical figures are the sum of their experiences and contributions, both good and bad, and cannot be entirely defined by one moment; however, when we reference figures without proper context, such as on the face of a building, this recognition becomes purposeless as the ability to critically and holistically review the past is lost,” the proposal read.

Student Senate called on University administration to “quickly and permanently” remove these names and to reconsider the naming policy for future buildings. The following changes to the University’s policy were proposed:

New buildings should not be named after individuals who “violate the mission and commitments of LSU.” Public opinions and administrative discussions should determine if an individual meets these requirements.

A facility may be named after an individual who preserves LSU’s values, even if that individual did not otherwise have a connection to the University.

The LSU Board of Supervisors should consider underrepresented groups in naming discussions.

If a building is renamed right before it is torn down, the University should use the name on a future building. This guarantees every name will be used for a reasonable time period.

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The second bill was for the University administration to create a public webpage with information on the naming committee such as meeting agendas, names and titles of committee members and official voting records. It also asks the committee to allow public input at meetings and through online forms. Additionally, a committee member is requested to brief the Student Senate every time a naming recommendation has been made or if one semester has passed since the last briefing.

The proposal was presented by SG members Carianne Asberry and Drake Brignac.

Asberry said she was “ecstatic and proud” about the meeting’s outcome.

“The work that is being done across our campus through various student organizations makes me proud to be a tiger,” Asberry said. “Since being here it’s been a mission to create everlasting change and not just putting a bandaid on a corrupt system. It is not to point the finger at anybody, but our university needs to do better.”

Asberry said she hopes to see real change implemented across campus. Now that the resolution has been passed, her next step is to personally speak to the administration about student issues such as high tuition, mold on campus and safety precautions for RAs.

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“We all deserve to be valued, and we follow our commitment to the community, and it’s time our school does the same for us,” Asberry said.

Brignac described the bill’s creation as an arduous process. He and Asberry sought to prevent resistance from public figures who previously criticized the initiative, such as Sen. John Kennedy.

Throughout all the draft changes and disagreements, Brignac said Democracy at Work and College Democrats supported the resolution and continued to contribute valuable research.

“By the end of it all, the resolution became about more than just eliminating the names of racists or traitors--it was also about our values and ideals as students and citizens, meaningful dialogue and recognizing the importance of context,” Brignac said.

Brignac hopes this is the first of more student-involved initiatives, and that they may be “turning a new page” in SG.

“Our initiatives gradually address more serious issues, legislation has more student input and involvement and, finally, students can start believing in SG as a body that truly stands for student interests, no matter how difficult the path may be,” Brignac said.

While both resolutions passed without opposition, the meeting lasted nearly three hours. Other items on Student Senate’s agenda were addressed first and at one point there was a delay to ensure the minimum number of voting members had logged into the Zoom call.

In a statement released to the Reveille, Democracy at Work said the meeting “went well overall,” but the group would have preferred to see the resolutions placed first on the agenda. The organization also acknowledged that the bill is the first step to further activist efforts.

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“We want material change on campus because the building names do not matter if students are being affected by material conditions,” the statement read. “For example, it does not matter if a Black student studies in a building that’s name is non-racist or even of an honorable Black person if when they leave that building they are still targeted by police officers, and they still suffer housing discrimination.

“It doesn’t matter if a Hispanic person enters a building named after an honorary Hispanic person if when they leave the building they are subjected to fear of deportation or food scarcity. Symbolic changes don’t matter if workers on LSU’s campus and in the Baton Rouge area are still being exploited. If the campus is still using prison labor.

“We didn’t expect to get this far this fast, but at the same time, we’re not content and seek to go beyond this. We hope that the symbolic passing of this resolution will urge the renaming committee to utilize the research we’ve provided to make changes that shift the culture at LSU. And, we hope that these cultural changes manifest into material ones. We hope the coalition we’ve built up getting this far will follow us into the next stages of our movement, which will address systemic problems.”

Both resolutions will be distributed to Interim President Thomas Galligan, Executive Vice President and Provost Stacia Haynie and to all members of the Building Name Evaluation Committee and the Committee on Naming University Facilities & Academic Units.

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