The sophomore residence hall will now be known as Robert E. Lee Barracks
After research by a theology professor revealed that Xavier founder Bishop Edward Fenwick was a slaveholder and used money from selling his slaves to fund the university, Xavier has finally decided on a new name for his namesake building: Robert E. Lee Barracks.
This past year, a committee was established to evaluate how Xavier should address its history, including whether the new residence hall named after the founder, Bishop Fenwick Place, should be changed. On one hand, renaming the residence hall would show that Xavier does not align with the ideals of slave holders. On the other hand, the renaming would confuse tour guides and force them to change their script. It’s a toughie.
Either way, the student body cares about how the injustice will be reconciled. Some students are hopeful; after all, Xavier is committed to morality, reflection, compassion and informed action within the mission statement. However, the committee has also made clear its intention to follow another Xavier tradition: failing to inform students about anything significant until the last minute.
The last that any of us lowly students heard, Father Michael Graham, president, had requested recommendations regarding the residence hall’s name back in January so that the university could implement any necessary changes during the spring semester. In true Xavier fashion, the committee failed to inform students about any progress until the last possible minute.
To avoid whiny students, the committee elected to hold a public renaming ceremony where they would use a random name generator in front of a large group of the Xavier community. This way, it would be entirely fair whether the hall was renamed to reflect a Jesuit value, a slaveholder’s name, the name of a freed slave or an essential oil fragrance. The working group vowed to change the name of the residence hall immediately after hitting the button.
The community was thrilled to see “Robert E. Lee” appear on the screen and expressed pride that the building would be named after a true American war hero and outstanding leader who stood out against the crowd, something all students can learn from. As soon as the name was announced, a parade erupted that carried the committee members on their shoulders all the way downtown past the Freedom Center and back.
Xavier has since proposed commissioning a replica of a statue of Lee upon a horse and surrounded by a stone wall. The statue will be placed in front of the residence hall to attract prospective students to Xavier’s equestrian club, which is what the students wanted all along.
By: Heather Gast ~Future Barracks Resident~