The Tennessee division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy is suing Vanderbilt University because the school plans on changing the controversial name of Confederate Memorial Hall to simply Memorial Hall. The UDC says that changing the name is a breach of contract. The university says it’s going to be a universal memorial, for all soldiers.
In this case, the UDC is right. Vanderbilt should not remove “Confederate” from the building name. The university should instead find a way to honor Union soldiers as well.
CNN reports that in 1935, the UDC contributed $50,000 of the $150,000 needed to build Confederate Memorial Hall, a residence hall on Vanderbilt’s campus. The name has been the subject of debate since 1988, when the building was renovated and the university declined students’ requests to change its name. Since then, some African-American students have refused to set foot in the building. The university now says it will change the name but still keep up plaques commemorating the UDC’s contributions in the main lobby.
Contributing $50,000 in the middle of the Depression was a tremendous thing for the UDC to accomplish. Since all members of the UDC are descendants of Confederate soldiers, the memorial has added meaning. Vanderbilt’s position is understandable also; political correctness is very important to any privately funded institution.
However, the fact remains that for students to be offended by the name is somewhat ignorant. The majority of soldiers who fought in the Civil War had never owned slaves. Most of them were fighting to defend the place that they loved, and hundreds of thousands died trying. No matter what the Confederacy’s agenda might have been, it took just as much courage to be a Confederate soldier as to be a Union soldier, and to deprive them of a memorial, is extremely disrespectful. If Vanderbilt wants to be politically correct, it should build another monument, for descendants of slaves or Union soldiers, not attempt to erase the word “Confederate” from an existing one.