Middle Tennessee State University will not appeal the February decision by the Tennessee Historical Commission to deny the request for a waiver allowing the university to change the name of Forrest Hall to the Army ROTC Building.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee announced the decision to the campus community via email Wednesday, June 6:
“Earlier this spring, the Tennessee Historical Commission denied our petition to rename Forrest Hall. During a conference call with the Tennessee Attorney General, he explained that a conflict of interest could exist if that office represented two state entities on opposing sides of a lawsuit. Therefore, if we were to appeal, we would be required to hire outside legal counsel at our expense. After extended deliberation with key stakeholders, I have decided not to appeal that decision.
“I continue to believe that renaming Forrest Hall is the right thing to do. However, the cost of an appeal would be significant and there is a real possibility that we would not be successful. Given these circumstances, I believe the money we would pay to retain outside counsel should instead be used toward our mission of supporting student success resulting in degree completion.
“Despite the fact that the name Forrest Hall will remain, our efforts to ensure that MTSU remains an inclusive place where all students and staff feel welcome will continue unabated.”
The decision concludes a process that began in the summer of 2015 when McPhee appointed a task force to review the building’s name following a mass shooting at a historically black South Carolina church that prompted a national discussion about Confederate iconography on public property.
The 17-member task force held three public forums and two open deliberations before making its recommendation to rename the building. McPhee eventually presented that recommendation to the Tennessee Board of Regents, which still had governing authority at the time, and the TBR also approved the decision.
In accordance with state law, the university then submitted a waiver request to change the name to the Tennessee Historical Commission, culminating in February’s meeting and denial.
For more background on this issue, go to www.mtsu.edu/forresthall.