Over the weekend, former members of South Carolina athletics, as well as Women’s Basketball coach Dawn Staley, voiced their disapproval of the name of the Strom Thurmond Fitness Center followed by a letter from university President Bob Caslen on the situation.
President Bob Caslen released this statement after the news conference today:
“I appreciate Moe Brown and our former athletes adding their voices to this issue. I have heard from many students, faculty and other members of the community who share their concerns. We must work toward a more inclusive environment where all of our students feel valued. I am fully committed to this.”
Later in Caslen’s letter he speaks about inclusiveness and its role in his presidency:
“From the beginning of my presidency, I recognized the divisive nature of some campus building names. My goal has been to encourage and foster open, candid dialogue so that all views are expressed and considered. I believe it is important to have open, inclusive, and respectful discussion on matters like this from which we can move forward together. I am excited this process has begun.”
The conference featured a number of alumni including Gamecock legend Marcus Lattimore joined by Natasha Hastings, an alumni with accolades such as 13 gold medals in various World Championships in the 400 meter relay. The tandem spoke on how uncomfortable the building made them, even admitting to going out of their way to avoid it.
Former Gamecock athlete and US Congress candidate Moe Brown stated the following on the center’s namesake Strom Thurmond:
“The guy literally said that Negroes shouldn’t be here in our places of recreation, amusement, churches, and homes, so just imagine walking into a building where you know that a guy whose name is on did not want to see you or people who look like you in that place. That weighs on you.”
Strom Thurmond was a South Carolinian Governor, Senator and brought upon agricultural and educational funding in the state.
Thurmond also opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as desegregation and he never denounced his Dixiecratic views on racial segregation.
The process requires a two-thirds vote to enact change of the fitness and wellness center under the Heritage Act, which protects the names of monuments and buildings of historical figures.
The call of change goes all the back to June where South Carolina students started a petition with over 20,000 signatures.