Regents decry calls to rename Minnesota university buildings

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The University of Minnesota’s yearlong debate over whether to rename buildings with ties to administrators who promoted racist policies has reached a standoff as several Board of Regents members push back against the efforts.
Some regents are criticizing a task force’s recommendations to scrub Coffman Union, Nicholson Hall, Middlebrook Hall and Coffey Hall of their namesakes, the Minnesota Daily reported.
In February, a task force, appointed by university President Eric Kaler, called for the buildings to be renamed because of the four former administrator’s involvement in upholding segregation and surveilling minority students on campus. But several regents are now questioning the whether the administrators had acted on their own volition.
Regent Michael Hsu claims that the task force, which included faculty members, intentionally omitted historical evidence that weighs favorably for the figures.
“Our faculty obviously have tried to bypass the truth,” Hsu said. “At the end of the day, I think their report is completely not credible and their motives are in question.”
Hsu said historical documents excluded from the report show that the administrators acted under the direction of regents when they promoted racist or anti-Semitic policies. He pointed to minutes from a board meeting in 1935, when Lotus Coffman was the university’s president.
Coffman was criticized in the task force’s report for excluding black students from student housing.
The document that Hsu identified says regents unanimously supported segregation at a student hall at the time.
“If you’re trying to understand somebody’s motivations, you have to understand what they are being told to do by their bosses, by people who have control over them,” Hsu said.
Regent Darrin Rosha also said that the task force mischaracterized the historical record and exaggerated former administrators’ actions.
Riv-Ellen Prell, a professor who advised the task force, said the regents “misrepresented” historical research by singling out individual documents and drawing broad conclusions.
Prell said the issue goes beyond renaming the four buildings.
“If we set aside renaming. What is our responsibility?” she said. “Our responsibility is to tell this history.”
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Information from: The Minnesota Daily, http://www.mndaily.com/