The university said William Peace owned 51 slaves. For this reason, the university’s board of trustees voted to remove the statue from campus.
“Today, we publicly acknowledge these discoveries. We are making this public acknowledgment because living our values today requires us to consider the hard truths of our past,” the university said in a statement.
“History is definitely a part that has happened before in our lives, and it’s something that we definitely learn from and don’t try to repeat,” rookie Taryn Shelton said.
In addition to taking down the statue, the university will hold a recognition day on Thursday. This day is designed to allow for reflection and growth.
Listening sessions will also be scheduled over the next few weeks with various members of the University community. The university brought in a third party group to facilitate these sessions. The feedback and lessons learned from these sessions will be transformed into a set of recommendations for university leadership.
President Brian Ralph said the name of the university itself is likely to come up in discussions about ways to make the campus more inclusive and welcoming.
“We took this step proactively, we really think it’s important for us to understand our past so we can move forward and be as inclusive a university as possible,” Ralph said.
The school’s task force also discovered that slaves had built the main campus building, which also served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. Additionally, yearbooks from the 1920s contain offensive text and images, including racial slurs.
“Honestly, some students of color — mostly black students — weren’t necessarily surprised by the information because the school is in the South,” said Alyssa Crowder, a senior. “It was appreciated that they made the statement and opened the floor for students of color to speak out. Their removal from the statue is also greatly appreciated as they could have made the statement and left the statue. ”
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