Amid calls to rename multiple buildings, UofSC Board of Trustees votes to rename Sims Hall
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - In recent days, the calls to rename buildings on the University of South Carolina campus named after controversial figures during the Civil War and Civil Rights era have grown louder.
Thousands of current and former students posted on social media and signed petitions to rename buildings like the Marion J. Sims Residence Hall and the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center. On Friday, the UofSC Board of Trustees met and voted to move forward with renaming of Sims Hall.
Sims is a 19th-century physician widely known as the “Father of Modern Gynecology.” During his career, he performed hundreds of medical experiments on enslaved African American women without anesthesia.
UofSC President Bob Caslen wrote an open letter to the university on Monday strongly endorsing the renaming and the board unanimously passed a resolution Friday that will request a waiver from the General Assembly to override the Heritage Act and rename Sims Hall.
“We are reminded today and every day that it is not enough to confront racism. We have to take action and make sure our campus promotes equity, access, and inclusion,” Caslen said.
For many students, the name Marion J. Sims represents an opposing message to the values of the Carolina Creed. For Reylan Cook, a junior at the university who is involved with the 2020 Revision organization, said that it was upsetting seeing Sims’ name on a building knowing his treatment of enslaved women.
“For that name to be praised on our campus is very disheartening as a student. It’s very disheartening as a black woman and its very disheartening as all the intersections I hold as a Gamecock,” Cook said.
On Friday, a group of UofSC students released a list of demands called “2020 Revision” that they would like to see the university take to address racial inequity.
Issy Rushton, the UofSC student body president, presented those demands to the board today. The list of demands includes things like classes on topics of diversity, expanding minority recruitment efforts, and buildings on campus named after individuals with controversial backgrounds be renamed. They listed the Sims Building, the Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center, and the Thomas Cooper Library.
Cook, who serves as the secretary of Inclusion and Equity in UofSC Student Government, was one of the students who signed 2020 Revision.
“They want us to be these change-makers in the world once we leave the university, but the people they are honoring on these buildings did a lot of things to set our state and the world back,” Cook said. “So, I think as a student it’s very contradictive to what we are being told of the Carolinian Creed versus what we are actually seeing on campus.”
President Caslen said the vote to rename Sims Hall is especially important on June 19, also know as Juneteenth, a day nationally recognized as a day to celebrate and commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S.
The board did not discuss the Strom Thurmond Wellness Center, but Caslen stressed the work isn’t over.
“We must make decisions to demonstrate our commitment to inclusion, diversity, and living the values expressed in our Carolinian creed,” Caslen said.
Although the board did not discuss the Strom Thurmond Wellness Center, many former students and athletes have been calling out for its renaming due to his opposition to the Civil Rights Act and one-time segregationist stance.
Others have supported keeping the name, citing his decades of service to South Carolina.
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