Black student leaders push, LSU Board of Supervisors approves removal of Middleton name from library
During the June 19 meeting of the LSU Board of Supervisors, the board approved the recommendation to remove the name Troy H. Middleton from the main library at LSU.
Prior to the academic committee meeting, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke in support of removing the name from the library.
“Obviously the Black student leaders at LSU are among the important voices that we need to listen to … In fact, LSU students of all races and backgrounds are telling us it is time for their library to represent someone that everybody, every student can be proud of, and I support them,” Edwards said. “It is time for the name of the library to be changed. Simply put, and this gets to the heart of the matter: in 2020 and going forward, LSU students shouldn’t be asked to study in a library named for someone who didn’t want them to be LSU students. We can do better. We can be better.”
In accordance with the board policy on naming of university facilities and Permanent Memorandum 2, LSU’s Naming Committee took up the matter of removing the name of Troy H. Middleton from the main LSU library. The matter was approved unanimously and endorsed by the appropriate university officials before being presented to the Board of Supervisors.
LSU Board of Supervisors Chair Mary Werner said that part of the job of an institution of higher learning is to examine the questions that society has and to learn from those who have come before us. She added, it is important to bring forward proposals that help move LSU forward such as the renaming of the library and to recognize not only a painful past but to reconcile it so that all students have equal opportunities.
“History will not be erased. It is well-documented. But today we can change the mission that is LSU by welcoming every student, young and old, black and white, any nationality, that they are welcomed, their comments, their studies, their work here is valued and respected,” Werner said.
Middleton, an infantry officer during multiple engagements in both World Wars, served as LSU president from 1952 to 1961. In spite of his many accomplishments, documents have been made public showing Middleton’s role in advocating for and continuing segregationist policies and practices despite a Supreme Court ruling allowing full access and participation of Blacks in University life.
The University Naming Committee considered all of the factors pertaining to Middleton and acknowledged his stellar military career and service to LSU. However, the committee voted to remove the name of Middleton from the library based on his efforts to deny Black American citizens from enjoying the equal rights and privileges guaranteed by the Constitution.
Interim President Tom Galligan said that it is significant and moving that today’s board actions are taking place on Juneteenth, or Freedom Day. He asked that it be a day of reflection for the LSU community.
“Juneteenth commemorates the freedom of the last enslaved Blacks in America, two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation,” Galligan said. “While it’s cause for celebration, let this also be a day of reflection for LSU and our country as we work towards true equality and freedom for all.”
During her chair’s report, Werner shared that diversity training will be established across all departments at LSU and in August, the board will establish a new standing committee, pending board approval, the Committee on Social, Equity, Justice and Inclusion.
“Let us continue the work we have begun,” Werner said. “We must continue the hard conversations.”
Separately, Galligan outlined the steps LSU is taking to reopen for the fall semester and his optimism for bringing students back to campus for instruction in August.
“First and foremost, safety will continue to be our guidepost – safety for our students, safety for our faculty, safety for our staff and visitors,” Galligan said. “And the plans are subject to change based on the evolving COVID situation.”
Chancellors from the other LSU campuses around the state also shared similar plans for reopening their campuses to students.
Some highlights of the return to campus plans included following guidelines for face masks, physical distancing, handwashing and enhanced cleaning. Regarding classes, classroom occupancy will be kept to 50 percent capacity, and some classes will be in person and some will be a hybrid of in-person instruction and online portions. The university will also implement testing protocols and contract tracing methods.
Photo from LSU Reveille