Editorial: The university needs to stop making things up
It is safe to say that most students do not know that Morris Library offers anything besides a place to study, an escape from the toxic combination of thin walls and obnoxious neighbors or the space to socialize, specifically in the tragically all-Greek life atrium. For a student to know that the library offers book rentals, let alone curated exhibits, is an impressive feat.
If there’s one thing they should know, however, it’s that the reconstructions of history both in the library and across campus should not be taken at face value.
Minute faults, such as misspelling a name, are forgivable and even understandable. Regrettably though, in this instance, a timeline, at the entrance to the library, asserts that Morris Library, built in 1963, is named after Judge Hugh M. Morris who “fought for the desegregation of this campus.” Morris, in fact, did not fight for desegregation, as The Review reported this week.
This misrepresentation of fact is part of a larger trend in which the university has attempted, whether purposefully or not, to rewrite elements of its past. Even upon first entering the campus as a freshman, certain tiring traditions are based on tenuous claims of historical factuality. To say that this university was founded in 1743, for instance, is a bit of a stretch, yet the university using it as a main advertising point, attempting to make its founding contemporary with that of Princeton and William and Mary.
Furthermore, it is concerning that the university seemingly tries to hide the fact that it did not willingly desegregate after the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Instead, the school was under court order to desegregate. In declining to actively acknowledge this troublesome truth, the university’s reputation could become one of an institution that attempts to manufacture its own history.
If someone thinks that these claims are unfounded or too uncommon to call this an ongoing problem, all that person has to do is look around. Some of the freshman dorms are named after former slave owners, including Caesar Rodney. In short, the university should not reject the reality of its past but rather move forward by recognizing and remedying these wrongdoings.
This issue is not exclusive to the university. Universities like Brown, Princeton and Georgetown have documented ties to slavery and racial discrimination; however, the difference is that they have chosen to admit to their disgraceful pasts. The attempts to hide the university’s historical missteps then puts us behind other educational institutions and appears a futile attempt to paint the university as a pristine college.
Interestingly, Louis L. Redding, after whom one of the newer freshman dorms is named, was the person actually responsible for the desegregation of the university. Perhaps Morris Library would benefit from featuring an entry exhibit about Redding, or the ten students who he represented in the lawsuit that ultimately led to the university’s desegregation.
The university must stop overlooking its troubled history and, rather, acknowledge it head on. By denying that these truths are a part of its past, the university is contributing to a harmful culture of silence and denial in wrongdoing. Notably, confessing to and apologizing for the mistakes of the institution’s forefathers would not require anything drastic on behalf of the university or the administration. Even though it may seem like the error in the Morris Library exhibit is nothing more than that, an error, it is indicative of a larger issue regarding the recognition and conciliation of a dark history.
Editorials reflect the majority opinion of the editorial board, led this week by Alex Eichenstein. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.