University of Minnesota to consider changing name of 4 buildings

The buildings are all named after former administrators whose policies have been put under scrutiny.
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Four buildings at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities are set to get new names, under a recommendation to be made by President Eric Kaler.

Kaler will suggest at an upcoming Board of Regents meeting that the names of four campus buildings: Coffman Memorial Union, Nicholson Hall, Middlebrook Hall and Coffey Hall, be removed.

It comes 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.

A task force was charged with investigating the actions of said administrators and make a recommendation to the Board of Regents as to whether the buildings that took their name should be called something else.

It concluded that each of the buildings should be renamed, but that permanent plaques or exhibit should also be erected around the campus "to raise awareness about University history and to not erase

Here's a look at the reasons why each building is being recommended for a name change:

Coffman Memorial Union: There have been calls to rename the Coffman since "A Campus Divided" debuted and revealed that former U of M President Lotus Coffman defended the practice of keeping dorms racially segregated, and also approved of off-campus boarding houses that refused to rent to black or Jewish students. The task force also found he excluded black students from some medical training programs, and athletics.

Nicholson Hall: The East Bank campus building was built in 1890 and was named in 1945 after Edward E. Nicholson, the U of M's first dean of student affairs. While the report concedes some saw him as a "benevolent leader who cared deeply for students," further examination found he censored political speech on campus, surveilled student activists, and exhibited "antisemitism and racism in his actions as a University administrator, often targeting Jewish and Black students whom he labeled 'communists.'"

Middlebrook Hall: The undergraduate resident hall on the West Bank was named in 1966 for William T. Middlebrook, who was a former U of M comptroller and vice president for business administration. While a decorated and accomplished administrator, the study found he supported policies and practices that discriminated against students of color and Jewish students when it came to housing access, despite having powers to improve equity on campus.

Coffey Hall: Found on the St. Paul campus, it was named for Walter Castella Coffey in 1949, who served as U of M president between 1941 and 45. The research found he played a role in establishing segregated housing in 1942, and his administration "supported policies that attempted to exclude and segregate Blacks."

Kaler isn't suggesting what the new names should be just yet, saying that he wants to take time to get more feedback from students and the community, as well as speaking with the descendants of the four men after whom the buildings were named.

In the meantime, he's suggesting the Coffman be referred to as the "Student Union," Coffey Hall be called the "Agricultural Administration Building," Middlebrook Hall be called "West Bank Residence Hall," and Nicholson Hall be called "216 Pillsbury Drive."

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