The release of the horrific video of the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers opened the eyes of many to the racial injustices in this country and around the world. Many began to realize that it was their job to work towards a fairer, accepting, and just world.
It is clear that those in the younger generations are becoming leaders of the important changes that are being made to today’s society. These emerging leaders are tackling long held social and racial discrepancies with an open mind and a unique combination of hope and determination that has captured the world’s attention.
In our Clemson community we have leaders who are prepared to educate, accept, and celebrate the differences they have with their classmates while empathizing, and advocating for real change. Following are changes occurring in Clemson due to the passion and determination of Clemson students.
Following the outrage that came from the Black community and its supporters that forced the nation to pay attention to racial issues in this country, Student Athlete Development Assistant Directors Sable Lee and Anthony Hines created a “Tiger’s Unite” town hall zoom event for any student athlete to join to express their feelings and emotions. The two described this meeting as “a safe space for us to UNITE during this time.” (Sable Lee and Anthony Hines)
Clemson Student Athletes of all racial and ethnic backgrounds joined the meeting to express their feelings, listen, and learn. The meeting provided a space for Black student athletes and allies a sense of comfort and unity.
From there, a leadership council comprised of 1-2 student-athletes from each varsity team was formed and is led by President Crystal Childs (volleyball), Vice President Darien Rencher (football), Secretary Bridget Kane (rowing), and Treasurer Andrew Castano (xc & track). This group of 19 athletes has since been meeting as the club C.O.D.E (Commission on Diverse Empowerment) to plan how to best use our platform to diminish racial injustice through demonstrations, information, discussions, and the electoral system. One of the advisors, Sable Lee, explained “we have a great opportunity to continue a legacy started by many trailblazers to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion is always a part of our culture”.
In 2017, the Reclaim, Rename movement was started by Clemson Alumni. This movement is run by a group of Clemson students and is designed to help students of color feel more comfortable by creating a move inclusive campus community.
In 2019, Hannah Connely, a member of Reclaim, Rename, started a petition to change the name of the former Calhoun Honors College, which unfortunately did not get much traction. Clemson University is built on John C. Calhoun’s Fort Hill Plantation and the institution chose to change the name of the honors college to ‘Calhoun Honors College’ in 1982 to pay tribute to him. The issue with Calhoun is his legacy as an adamant defender of slavery, he was a white supremacist, and owned nearly 80 slaves on Fort Hill Plantation. The leaders of Reclaim, Renameemphasized the importance of the removal of John C. Calhoun’s name from the honors college stating, “to reject the inclusion of this name on the Calhoun Honors College is to renounce racist ideals and affirm the notion that Black lives are valued at Clemson University.”
In light of the renewed-nationwide desire for racial justice, members of the Reclaim, Rename Movement decided to recirculate the petition, which gained national support, including endorsements from professional football players DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson, and ultimately led Clemson Trustees to remove Calhoun’s name from the Honors College. Read the full story, including an interview with the creator of the 2020 petition, Roann Abdeladl, below.
The group continues to keep the movement going and is currently focusing on centering the voices of students of color. Roann Abdeladl explained that the group wants to give students of color a platform to be heard so that they can continue to use their voices
Now that Reclaim, Rename has earned national recognition, the members want to use their new found connections to continue supporting students of color. Recently, the group began donation campaign to collect donations for three organizations that support students of color: the Harvey B. Gantt Scholarship Endowment, the Honors College Opportunity Scholarship, and the Harvey and Lucinda Gantt Multicultural Center. Click here to donate
The national unrest and desire to act that brought the Black Lives Matter Movement back to the national stage lead Roann Abdeladl, a rising Junior, Health Science major at Clemson University and other members of the Reclaim, Rename movement to relaunch the petition to change the name of Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College.
While in the process of relaunching the new petition, NFL player (Houston Texans) and former Clemson star DeAndre Hopkins found the old petition and reached out to the group. Hopkins told the Reclaim, Rename group members that he had done research on how to get the name changed and wanted to support them in any way he could. When reflecting on Hopkin’s efforts to get the petition circulated, Roann Abdeladl, remarked, “It was cool to see other well-known figures share the petition including Deshaun Watson(Houston Texans and former Clemson football quarterback) and current Clemson football players. I didn’t expect it to take off so quickly or honestly expect the result.”
The results Abdeladl speaks of are the unanimous decision made by the Clemson Board of Trustees to approve the Honors College name change from “Calhoun Honor College” to “Clemson University Honors College,” Additionally, the board also made steps to address the renaming of the iconic clocktower, Tillman Hall.
The abundance of support by students from the administration for the name change gave Abdeladl hope for more changes to occur around campus. While name changes are a start, she also hopes for changes in heart from the student body to be more accepting and welcoming of students of color.
As a student of color at Clemson University, Abdeladl has had an abundance of “not so great, unkind experiences” because she is Muslim and wears a hijab. As a freshman hearing of the Clemson family, it was a shock to her what the Clemson climate was actually like for students of color. Since her initial shock of her freshman year, Abdeladl has done a lot of work with diversity and inclusion with the goal of changing Clemson’s climate so that in the future, students of color won’t have to experience what she did.
In South Carolina, the Heritage Act requires that at least two-thirds of both the House and Senate approve any change to any monument. In 1946 Clemson’s “the Main Building” was renamed “Tillman Hall” after Benjamin Tillman, a former South Carolina Governor who oversaw the establishment of Clemson College, making it fall under the Heritage Act’s jurisdiction. Recently, through petitions, demonstrations and public statements, it is apparent that students are upset that Clemson has a building honoring Benjamin Tillman who has a legacy of hate. Tillman was a self-proclaimed white supremacist who opposed civil rights for Black Americans.
Clemson trustees listened and respectfully requested the South Carolina General Assembly make a one-time exception to the state’s Heritage Act and restore Tillman Hall to its original name of Old Main.
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Author: Bridget Kane
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