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Author Flannery O’Connor is next on the social-justice chopping block, it seems.
Loyola University Maryland has announced it would change the name of Flannery O’Connor Hall after allegations that the famous author had personally written letters and postcards that contained racist language. On July 24, President Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., sent an email to the Loyola community announcing the dorm would now be named after Sister Thea Bowman.
“During recent conversations around racism, one of the issues that caught the attention of our community was the name of Flannery O’Connor Residence Hall. Information coming forward recently about O’Connor, a Catholic American writer of the 20th century, has revealed that some of her personal writings reflected a racist perspective,” Linnane said in his statement to the community. “The building names we use at Loyola should declare to our students – and entire community – what sort of values we esteem and hope to instill in our graduates. A residence hall must be a home and a haven for those who live there, and its name should reflect Loyola’s Jesuit values.”
“We are renaming that resident hall for Sister Thea Bowman, a Servant of God whose cause for canonization has been endorsed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,” Linnane continued. “Sister Thea, who lived from 1937 to 1990, was the granddaughter of slaves and a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. An educator, speaker, and African American activist, Sister Thea inspired people demonstrating deep compassion for the materially poor and those at the margins of society.”
Flannery O’Connor’s work has been praised for decades and includes the novels “Wise Blood” and “The Violent Bear It Away.” She also authored 32 short stories.
A month ago, a petition was started on Change.org urging Loyola to change the name of Flannery O’Connor Residence hall.
“Recent letters and postcards written by Flannery O’Connor express strong racist sentiments and hate speech. Her name and legacy should not be honored nor glorified on our Evergreen Campus,” wrote the petition’s creator, Regina McCoy.
In addition to renaming the residence hall, Linnane told the Loyola community that he was starting a committee to look into other building names on campus.
“I am also forming a presidential renaming committee to evaluate all philanthropic and honorifically named spaces on campus,” Linnane said. “That committee will determine a process for maintaining and removing building names and develop a rubric for naming and renaming, leading a deliberative, inclusive process that centers our mission, values, diversity, equity, and inclusion in these decisions.”
The name change comes as colleges and universities across the country once again seek to remove references to historical figures who owned slaves or espoused any views considered racist by today’s standards. In addition to name changes, schools are also considering new requirements that students take social justice classes. Some schools even offer classes accusing white people of racism based on their skin color.