True Fact: In Alabama, the university system’s Board of Trustees recently reversed its decision to rename a building on its Tuscaloosa campus as “Lucy-Graves Hall.” Autherine Lucy was the first black student to enroll at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa; Bibb Graves was a KKK leader and former governor of the state. Graves’s name will be dropped. (The Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 11th online)
This is not the first instance of a school making an abrupt U-turn after committing itself to a mind-numbingly stupid naming decision. Two of the most famous cases:
— In 1958, the Cornell School of Hotel Administration opened its Himmler-Frank Bed & Breakfast in Ithaca, NY. A firestorm of controversy ensued, and the structure was torn down three months later.
In the words of a current marketing professor at the institution, “Who in the hell knows what Cornell decision-makers were thinking in 1958 when they did this? I can appreciate the Anne Frank branding. After all, her name evokes the cozy living quarters she occupied in Amsterdam, and one of the B&B’s rooms is in the attic. But Heinrich Himmler??? The man was a monster. Were they trying to attract deranged males who would eventually commit suicide? The optics are all wrong. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
— A bit more understandable, perhaps, is the University of Tennessee’s decision to erect the Satanic Christian Chapel on its main quadrangle in 1996.
“They wanted a place on campus where Goths and Evangelicals could come together in fellowship and worship,” explains the current University chaplain. “But it didn’t work out, to put it mildly. Pitched battles would break out as soon as the Goths started beheading live geese at Sunday services. During these melees the Goths would routinely beat the crap out of the Evangelicals. They wielded bicycle chains, studded dog collars, and chain saws, while the most the Evangelicals could do was speak in tongues. It was never a fair fight. In 1998 the building was converted to a Chick-fil-A, and it’s now the most popular gathering place on campus. Go figure. Tasty chicken is what brings people together in harmony, not religion.”