Fifteen named to MTSU panel to study the naming of Forrest Hall

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Fifteen people, including state Sen. Bill Ketron and State Historian Carroll Van West, will serve as members of the task force that will consider whether to change the name of MTSU's Forrest Hall.

The task force, led by Derek Frisby, a faculty member in the Global Studies and Cultural Geography department, will hold its first meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, in room 220 of the Student Union Building. The task force's meetings are open to the public.

Frisby said Thursday's session would include planning of forums for public input and feedback, as well as a schedule for future meetings of the task force.

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The university announced in June that it would engage the community on the name of the campus building that houses MTSU's Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program and is named after Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. The decision came following a mass shooting at a historically black South Carolina church that prompted a national discussion about Confederate iconography on public property.

Forrest, a Confederate officer praised for his tactical methods, has also drawn attention recently because of his early ties to the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. A state of Tennessee historical panel is reviewing whether a bust of Forrest should be removed from the State Capitol.

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The MTSU task force includes faculty, alumni and student representation, as well as community members. Visit http://mtsu.edu/forresthall/ for more information and to give feedback.

Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, is a 1976 graduate of MTSU and, in 1991, was named a distinguished alumnus. MTSU Athletics recently recognized him for his role as a co-founder of the Blue Raiders Athletics Association.

MTSU professor Van West, director of the university's Center for Historic Presentation, is co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and director of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.

Van West will serve as a non-voting resource consultant to Frisby, who has authored numerous articles and essays dealing with Tennessee's Civil War occupation and serves as a historical consultant to ROTC programs and National Guard units in and near Middle Tennessee.

Other members of the task force include:

  • Tony Beard, an alumni representative and president of the MTSU Alumni Association;
  • Leonard Brown, a student representative and a political science junior;
  • Tom Clark, a community representative;
  • Mark Doyle, a faculty representative and an associate professor of history;
  • Tricia Farwell, president of the MTSU Faculty Senate and faculty regent at the Tennessee Board of Regents;
  • Mike Liles, a community representative;
  • Grant Marshall, a student representative and a freshman majoring in organizational communication;
  • The Rev. James McCarroll, a community representative;
  • Erynn Murray, a student representative and vice president of the MTSU Graduate Student Association;
  • David Otts, a faculty representative and professor in the University College;
  • Lindsay Pierce, a student representative and president of the MTSU Student Government Association;
  • Barbara Turnage, a professor of social work;
  • Brian Walsh, an alumni representative

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said the panel has been asked to recommend whether the building should be renamed; retain the name but with added historical perspective; or recommend that no action or change is warranted. TBR would have to approve any recommended name change and the university is also researching whether other state authorities would have to give approval as well.

Forrest Hall was built in 1954 to house the ROTC program, but wasn't dedicated until 1958, when the name became official. University leaders at the time chose the name because of Forrest's notoriety as a military tactical genius and his ties to the Middle Tennessee region.

Debate about Forrest rose periodically through the civil rights era and beyond, with the university removing a 600-pound bronze medallion of Forrest from the Keathley University Center in 1989. Opposition to the name of Forrest Hall didn't reach its height until 2006-07, when a number of students petitioned to have the name removed because of Forrest's ties to the Klan.

Others supported keeping the name. A series of public forums were held, with the university deciding to keep the name after the Student Government Association rescinded an earlier request to consider a name change and African-American student groups informed university leaders that such a name change was not a priority for them at that time.

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