9/5/20 March On LSU

LSU students walk during "March On LSU" demonstration on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020 at the Parade Ground on LSU's campus. 

It’s time to turn the page from the Ole War Skule to an entirely new one.

Students who transferred from the old campus to the current campus in 1926 called themselves "Cadets of the Ole War Skule" as a way to remember the University's history of military service and tradition.

The Ole War Skule has deep connections to Confederate officers and slave owners who were apart of the University but still rebelled against the United States as a means to preserve the institution of slavery. The University and its graduates played a major part in the military endeavors of the Civil War and it is time to rectify being on the wrong side of history.

Our University’s history is intertwined with the history of the Civil War, chattel slavery, Jim Crow laws and racism. The original Fighting Tigers of Louisiana were not found on the football field but on the battlefield. Louisiana infantry troops in the Confederate army were referred to as Louisiana Tigers — this name eventually became the University’s mascot.

The recent attention to renaming buildings like Middleton Library is a good start, but not enough. Colleges exist to educate; our University has the opportunity to use education as a means to correct previously accepted ideas about the Civil War and slavery.  

Artifacts, statues and prominent alumni from that era should not be removed from the history books entirely but they need the proper footnotes. Any celebration or remembrance of these historical figures must not overshadow the horrors of the institution they fought to preserve. 

Nothing can change our University's history — but we have the opportunity to present it in a new light. Placards with educational information that invoke the reality of the Confederacy and the horrors of slavery would serve to expose an era surrounded with misinformation about the true cause of Southern secession.

Directly acknowledging the part the University played in its role as an oppressor will open the door for reconciliation with the communities who were harmed. 

Finding social justice is a never-ending battle. Systemic racism and a legacy of hatred define a large portion of this country’s — and this University’s — history. In the past, the University has changed to become more inclusive and diverse due to the courageous fighting of activists and normal folk alike. At times change was forced when the administration did not accept it willingly.

It is time the University takes a step in the right direction and focuses on standing out amongst rival schools as a campus that is truly committed to fostering diversity and inclusion. 

Reimagining our campus and the artifacts found throughout is an essential first step. It is impossible for students to walk through our campus and feel proud when cannons used to attack our own country in a war over slavery are proudly displayed just yards from Tiger Stadium and dormitories like Edmund Kirby Smith bear the names of Confederate generals who had no relation to the University besides their common support of the Confederacy and slavery. 

Changing the symbols and monuments on campus can only go so far to change the attitudes surrounding our school. In order to reimagine the past, we must honor those we define the values we desire. Statues and monuments must be erected to honor individuals who represent diversity and academic success, not slavery and military might. 

Students should live and study inside buildings named after people that inspire them to succeed and represent achievable role models for everyone who steps onto this campus. 

Pinkie Gordon Lane, the first black PhD graduate and Poet Laureate from LSU, is a shining example of the plethora of diverse characters in the University’s past that haven’t received proper recognition. 

Lutrill Payne Sr. and his wife Pearl Henry Payne are two more examples of astounding people current students could look up to. Lutrill Payne Sr. successfully sued the University in 1951 to force the integration of the College of Agriculture; Pearl Henry Payne was the first black woman to graduate from the University in 1957. 

There are hundreds of examples of diverse alumni who embody the diverse nature of Louisiana. Our state is full of colorful characters that enrich our culture. The Flagship University should reflect the Louisiana traditions of diversity and inclusion, not of heritage and hate.

Cory Koch is a 21-year-old political science senior from Alexandria.  

Load comments