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U of M Regents vote against name changes for 4 buildings

President Eric Kaler recommended the changes due to the dubious pasts of the buildings' namesakes.

There will be no name changes for four buildings at the University of Minnesota, after regents voted to reject the proposal on Friday.

It had been proposed that the names of the Coffman Memorial Union, Nicholson Hall, Middlebrook Hall and Coffey Hall be removed, amid calls from some students and President Eric Kaler to address past racism at the university.

All four buildings were named after university administrators who in the past had supported segregated dormitories, or approved of discriminatory practices that targeted black or Jewish students.

But the Board of Regents rejected the name changes at a meeting on Friday after a 10-1 vote, with Regent Abdul Omari the only holdout.

It was a charged meeting, with the Minnesota Daily reporting that Regent Dean Johnson at one point threatening to arrest protesters, which came after the university's professor John Wright, of the Department of American and African Studies, tried to speak before the board.

Wright called for the regents to take steps to address the university's history of discrimination, but the board felt renaming the buildings would overlook the contributions of former administrators, and said there were other ways to address the questionable elements of the university's past.

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The recommendation to change the names of the buildings came following a four-month long review into the specific buildings mentioned in "A Campus Divided," a 2017 exhibition at the U of M that looked into the segregationist policies of some of its former administrators.

According to the Star Tribune, some of the regents felt that the review left out some significant evidence about the four men in question, and suggested that the report was biased.

"I am not a good enough person to judge four people who gave significant service and significant time to the University of Minnesota," Regent Steve Sviggum said, per the Strib.

The Board of Regents did unanimously back introducing permanent exhibits and regular events that would explain the history of the buildings' namesakes.

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