University Of Maryland’s President Doesn’t Want Stadium To Honor A Racist Anymore

8 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Maryland president calls for renaming Byrd Stadium.

BALTIMORE – Former University of Maryland President H.C. “Curley” Byrd’s name should come off of Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium because he worked to maintain racial segregation and endorsed “separate but equal” education, the current president said Monday. Loh recommended Monday that the university system’s board of regents should strip the football stadium name — a tribute to Harry Clifton “Curley” Byrd, a segregationist and former school president — that “stands as a vivid and painful reminder” of the school’s exclusionary practices of the past. To many African-American alumni and students, ‘Byrd Stadium’— the ‘front porch’ of the institution, not the most important part of the educational house, but the most visible one — conveys a racial message hidden in plain sight.”

During his tenure, the campus grew significantly, and Byrd is credited with transforming it from “an undistinguished agricultural college to something resembling a modern university.” But he’s also known for his opposition to racial integration in the early days of the civil rights movement, setting policies that were ultimately struck down in court. A working group considering the name change said supporters note Byrd’s role in the university’s expansion and say his racial views were typical of the time. Universities across the country — and abroad — are debating some of their most honored landmarks and traditions, as students have increasingly raised concerns about historic figures they now see as divisive or degrading rather than inspiring.

During a 43-year career at the school, Loh wrote, Byrd oversaw the school’s rapid expansion after World War II, including the construction of 60 buildings, and adopted the terrapin as the institution’s mascot. Schools such as the University of Texas and Washington and Lee University have vowed to move Confederate statues and flags out of prominent locations. Byrd promoted the development of the Princess Anne campus as an alternative for black students as he continued the segregated environment on the College Park campus.

The 28th U.S. president is revered for his progressive legacy at the nation’s helm but also is reviled for being a segregationist who some believe supported the ideas of the Ku Klux Klan. Mitchell earned a master’s degree from College Park, taught at Morgan State, worked in politics and won election to Congress in 1970, where he led the Congressional Black Caucus. Loh previously had not voiced support for a change, and in his letter to regents, he noted that it’s important to be wary of “presentism,” which he defined as judging historical figures based on current moral standards.

Hogan, who supported recalling the state’s Sons of Confederate license plates, indicated in July that he had no interest in removing a statue of former chief justice of the United States Roger B. Colin Byrd, a senior sociology major who has led a push to rename the stadium — and who is no relation to H.C. “Curley” Byrd — said making a change is the right call. “It sends a positive signal to black students and all other minorities that we are a university concerned about diversity, equity and inclusion,” Byrd said. Taney outside the State House in Annapolis or renaming Maryland’s football stadium. “Where do we draw the line?” Hogan asked. “Some of this history is our history. We hear people saying we should dig up the Confederate cemeteries in Maryland.” Students were surprised by the announcement, said Patrick Ronk, president of the student government association at U-Md., with some expressing anger but most either very supportive or ambivalent. “Reactions either way have been not so much about Byrd himself,” Ronk said. “I don’t think people have an affinity for Curley Byrd. . . .

Some people think, ‘Oh, it’s great, the university is taking a stance, acting on its ideals, doesn’t want to glorify a racist.’ ” Others have reacted against the idea of glossing over history to fit in with current times, he said: “It shows that student activism works and the administration listens to student concerns, which is good. The work group — composed of faculty, administrators and three students — did not come up with a recommendation; rather, the members offered options to Loh. Group members noted that their report comes at a time when student activism has been growing on campuses across the nation and as high-profile incidents of racial violence have spurred the Black Lives Matter movement. In recent months, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake named a commission to research the city’s Confederate monuments, and Baltimore County officials decided to rename Robert E.

Their pursuit of inclusion and equal opportunity remains unfinished.” “History is not about the past,” Loh wrote. “It concerns today’s debates about the past.” It is unfair to judge past leaders by contemporary values, he wrote. “Still, the world has changed.” School officials said the university will not erase the Byrd name from campus; if the stadium is renamed, the university plans to honor Byrd’s legacy in one of the main libraries. The stadium proposal coincides with other recent changes on campus honoring black citizens such as a new statue of Frederick Douglass and the just-renamed Parren J. This controversy is symptomatic of deeper divides on campus and in the nation at large.” This is the third time in the past 25 years that students have tried to change the name, each time during heightened tensions nationally over race relations. Around campus Monday, several students were unaware of the recommendation — and some were not aware of the controversy surrounding Byrd Stadium’s name. “I guess no one really thinks about what Byrd really means. The latest attempt coincided with the public release of an email full of racial slurs that, once made public, went viral far beyond U-Md.’s campus. “Symbols matter,” Loh wrote. “Monuments, battle flags, and building names elicit deep emotions, positive and negative.

When you look deeper into it, I guess it’s not really a great role model for us to have our stadium named after,” he said. “It makes sense with what [Loh is] trying to do with this university and the diversity we have here. At the same time, he said he wasn’t yet sure about the name “Maryland Stadium,” as he would have liked to have seen a name honoring someone who helped integrate the school.

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