The Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the Associated Student Body adopted a resolution Monday requesting the University rename Vardaman Hall.
The resolution will now move to the rules committee, which is made up of chairmen of all other committees and president pro tempore, the last step a resolution must go through before going to the formal senate floor. The rules committee will vote on Sunday.
If the rules committee adopts the resolution, it could be brought before the full ASB senate on March 1 or on March 8, according to Associated Student Body Vice President John Brahan.
James K. Vardaman was a Mississippi governor from 1904 to 1908 and U. S. Senator from 1913 to 1919. Vardaman, who once notably said he would lynch every black individual in the state, “to maintain white supremacy,” was an advocate of state-sponsored terrorism. The new resolution says keeping the name Vardaman, “honors his views regarding white supremacy and racial violence.”
Professional consultants in former chancellor Dan Jones’ Action Plan on Race and Diversity from 2014 specifically recommended Vardaman Hall’s name be changed.
Brahan said the only issue that might hinder the resolution in rules committee is the existence of a similar bill that was drafted in 2013.
The previous resolution encouraged the University to change the name of Vardaman Hall and was presented but, according to ASB President Rod Bridges, there are no senate minutes that show whether it was adopted, rejected or tabled.
When asked why this similarity could hinder the resolution despite the adoption of past resolutions with similar language, Bridges responded there hasn’t been a precedent set for this occasion.
“That’s where it gets cloudy procedurally,” Bridges said. “You could make the argument that technically any new piece of legislation that comes up during a new vice presidency or a new senate is technically fair game, because they weren’t the ones who have agreed upon it previously.”
Brahan said because there is no evidence that this resolution was adopted, he thinks this resolution could make it to the senate floor.
“Vardaman is a person who does not uphold the creed of the University, and that’s the issue at hand,” Brahan said “Someone who reads this (resolution) can understand why there is a legitimate concern for having a building on our campus named after this person.”
The question that needs to be asked, Brahan said, is whether or not the resolution is the right thing, or if it is change for the sake of change.
“Is time really of the essence? Or is doing it the right way the more important thing?” Brahan said. “Should we be stirring the pot? Or should we keep this conversation behind closed doors in order to find out what the plan of action is going to be to make sure a change like this occurs?”
According to meeting minutes, the Vardaman Hall resolution has been discussed several times since 2013.
If this bill is not adopted, Brahan said it could detract from the effectiveness the senate saw last semester.
“There is a lot of ambiguity in terms of the functioning of senate and how it’s been perceived on campus, and the power of a resolution.” Brahan said. “There is a lot more weight in a resolution now than there has ever been before.”
Brahan said there was a perception of ineffectiveness surrounding the senate until the removal of the state flag last semester, when students began to understand the influence ASB has on campus.
“If there is no correlation that Vardaman is going to change in this semester, is there really any point to bring it up now?” Brahan said. “It’s very important for us to make sure that what we are pushing through the student body senate are well thought out ideas and plans. “
Bridges said he doesn’t want this resolution to get bogged down in political correctness or become a step in a slippery slope of change for change’s sake.
Bridges said though he believes Vardaman will eventually change its name, it is important to listen to both sides and make changes that are true to the opinion of the student body.
– Logan Kirkland