Administrators of a residential college named after President James Madison on the campus of Michigan State University announced their willingness to expunge the Founding Father’s name from their institution.
In a letter addressed last week to “Alumni, students, and friends of the college,” interim dean Linda Racioppi and assistant dean Jeff Judge expressed their desire to foster an environment where “students can thrive as scholars and human beings,” adding, “As such, the College is taking steps to combat systemic racism and the perpetuation of whiteness and to probe how it can best support Students of Color, especially Black students.”
The letter goes on to lay out specific ways by which they intend “to combat racism and advance an anti-racist agenda within our college,” such as revising curriculum and course material, recruiting more students of color, providing counseling for “Students of Color dealing with racial trauma,” and dipping into an endowment to “annually host a visiting scholar-in-residence who will teach and engage in research on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) issues.”
The letter concludes by letting readers know that after summer, the college will consider changing its name, an act they say “will need to incorporate the perspectives of students, staff, faculty, and alumni. If these groups should support a name change, we would then proceed through the University governance process.”
The Michigan State chapter of Young America’s Foundation (YAF) released a statement on July 11 opposing the effort to change the college’s name, while acknowledging the complexity of Madison’s legacy. “None of us are perfect people,” the statement read in part. “James Madison, like all of us, has major flaws. But these flaws should not erase the good Madison did for this country. The figures of the past should be viewed in the context of their times and commend the good that they did, while acknowledging their flaws as ways we can improve ourselves.”
YAF at MSU’s statement on the Potential Renaming of James Madison College pic.twitter.com/btugWSTdwA
— Michigan State YAF (@MichStateYAF) July 11, 2020
Some students and alumni are understanding of the move, however. Anisa Dagher, a 2020 MSU graduate, told The Washington Free Beacon, “I don’t think James Madison was a great person, but I can understand why the college was named that to begin with. I can understand why some may want it to be changed and I would support that.”
“It isn’t my place to decide whether or not the name is offensive because it isn’t offensive toward me… I am curious as to what they would want to change it to that would represent what the college teaches while at the same time remaining inoffensive to students and faculty of color,” Dagher added.
Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was less impressed with the proposal, tweeting Monday, “James Madison was the Father of our Constitution. The Lunatic Left wants to expunge his memory.”
James Madison was the Father of our Constitution. The Lunatic Left wants to expunge his memory. https://t.co/VPIhLoS0Ux
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) July 12, 2020
The college’s letter comes at the height of a summer that has seen statues of historical figures toppled all over the country. During his recent Independence Day speech at Mount Rushmore, President Donald Trump denounced such behavior, saying, “We want free and open debate, not speech codes and cancel culture. We embrace tolerance, not prejudice.”