Vanderbilt University has settled a long-running lawsuit so it can rename Confederate Memorial Hall. The school will pay $1.2 million to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which is considered present day value of the original $50,000 donation more than 80 years ago.
Vanderbilt tried to rename Memorial Hall in 2002, but the Daughters of the Confederacy sued, arguing breach of contract. The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that Vanderbilt could only drop the name if it paid back the money. The school opted to save the $900,000 “rather than enrich an organization whose values it does not share,” states a press release from 2015.
But Chancellor Nick Zeppos says the time has come to move on.
“As our university and nation evolve, we are hardly ever perfect, and the solutions are hardly ever perfect,” he told WPLN.
“The residence hall bearing the inscription Confederate Memorial Hall has been a symbol of exclusion, and a divisive contradiction of our hopes and dreams of being a truly great and inclusive university,” he said in a statement. “It spoke to a past of racial segregation, slavery, and the terrible conflict over the unrealized high ideals of our nation and our university, and looms over a present that continues to struggle to end the tragic effects of racial segregation and strife.”
Zeppos says Vanderbilt is not trying to whitewash its past or avoid difficult questions. He sees the renaming as being true to the original vision of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who wanted to contribute to healing following the Civil War.
An anonymous donor has put up the money and specifically designated it for the renaming. In campus publications, the dormitory has simply been referred to as “Memorial Hall” for more than a decade.
A number of southern universities have been working to remove Confederate references on their campuses. Middle Tennessee State University is currently in the process of renaming Forrest Hall, which was meant to honor Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.