BY STEWART COARD – STAFF WRITER
The Centre College Board of Trustees has recently voted to remove the name of Justice James McReynolds from the McReynolds residence hall, in light of his prejudiced views and behavior.
A group of Centre students researched McReynold’s background and requested to have the name, due to his misogynistic, racist, and anti-Semitic beliefs. The request was reviewed by several committees and eventually the board itself. The board members unanimously agreed that the change in name was appropriate and necessary to reflect Centre’s values of inclusivity and diversity. Currently, the former McReynolds Hall will be referred to by its street address—762 West Main. President John Roush said in an email to the student body that the decision was influenced by the fact “that the values McReynolds publicly expressed were not generally accepted in his own time.”
Director of Communications Michael Strysick said, when asked to comment on the values of Centre, that “Just as people change and evolve, so do institutions, and I think it’s true that we are always striving to be a more perfect Centre. Great colleges and universities have and always will be works in progress, and so it was and is and always will be with Centre.”
Strysick pointed out how Centre is attempting to adapt while still respecting its traditions and background. “In our case, we simply were not aware of the associations, and we are grateful to the students who brought this to our attention.”
Will Schein, a student involved in the push to change McReynolds, reported that he first heard about the Justice’s reputation from a friend who was researching several buildings on campus, a little over a year ago.
“When I first started, I didn’t know who to go talk to about it,” said Schein. “No one else really knew who to talk to either. Eventually, I met Shawn Lyons, Jamie Leahy, and Dr. Rodmon King.”
Schein reported that they later met with the Senior Staff in the fall, before the decision was taken to the Board of Trustees. Although the Senior Staff did choose to take the decision to the board, they did not recommend that the name be changed.
“We were hoping that the Board would decide to delay the vote and ask for more research and information before they made a decision, because we thought they probably wouldn’t decide to change the name,” Schein explained, referring to himself, the other students, and several staff members.
McReynolds made an unrestricted donation of $53,000 to Centre College upon his death. It would have been impossible to change the name had it been a condition of his donation. However, Schein and his partners sorted through the minutes of the Board of Trustees in the college archive to ensure McReynolds never requested a building named after himself.
“The whole process wasn’t as smooth or easy as it should have been,” Schein said. “I think that’s because it’s the first time anything like this has happened and now that a formal process has been created for it, I think that it will hopefully go better in the future.”
“I had just assumed that proper parties were being informed,” Schein said, expressing concerns about communication during the process. “I definitely think that the people who should have been informed that this was happening were informed too late.”
When asked who he thought should have been informed, he mentioned “Dr. Axtell as he is the religious figure on campus, the Jewish Student Association and their staff representation, and I feel like the student body should have been informed. [The students involved] were told not to tell people before a decision was made.”
Schein also expressed concern over how the decision was explained. “I wish there was more done to inform the students and staff of the reasons behind it. Like who McReynolds was and how he doesn’t represent the college…”
Schein also credited fellow student Drew Howard for helping make the change and a third unnamed student.
“I think that it’s a good step the college took in making people feel more comfortable here,” said student Anna Samonds.