When the petition was passed around last August, Ethnic Studies professor Christopher Lehman was optimistic about his request to rename the 51 Building.
Now, that the process is coming even closer to reality as administrators and faculty are pledging their support to hopefully make that change by next year.
To do a recap, 51 is the only building on campus that does not have a person’s name on it. Since St. Cloud State University pledges a commitment to being a diverse and welcoming environment, Lehman wanted the building to be renamed after Ruby Cora Webster, the first African American to graduate from the St. Cloud Normal School in the early 1900s.
“It has been a remarkable turnaround,” Lehman said. “Especially the speed of it and the overwhelming support that it’s had.”
However, the situation is a bit complicated because the University or the MnSCU system does not have procedure or policy for the name change of a building since it’s never happened before.
As of right now, the petition has enough signatures, now Lehman needs the approval from those in administration. Those positions include all four Vice Presidents, President Vaidya, and the current MnSCU chancellor, but according to Judith Siminoe, President Vaidya’s Special Advisor, she says they’re all supportive of the name change.
However, the school is still facing some opposition to the decision, which primarily has to do with finances. The University opened the discussion to students and faculty. The first comment made were the concerns about the cost to make the change and how much money the University would have to spend renaming the building. The second coment had to do with concerns about giving up the name to someone who has passed away instead of giving it to one of the school’s donors, who could give money to the school.
Lehman also said students of color have reached out to him about the changes, thanking him for his diligence and support.
“I believe that structures matter, and that architecture matters and if you’re on a campus or know of academic buildings that aren’t named after any people of color, then that says something about the University,” he said.