The Clemson Faculty Senate passed a resolution by an overwhelming majority that asks the university's administrative leadership to take immediate action to change the name of the most iconic building on Clemson's campus, a building that now houses much of the school's education department and is named for Benjamin Tillman, a former South Carolina governor and one of the university's founders, and a man who spoke virulently about his white supremacist ideals, advocated for the murder of black people and led efforts to institute Jim Crow laws in late-19th-century South Carolina.
The faculty said Tuesday that Tillman should no longer hold a place of honor because he was an "avowed racist, and this is at odds with the university's mission and values, and reflects poorly upon it," according to a section of the resolution the faculty passed.
Clemson Board of Trustees Chairman David Wilkins has said the board doesn't have plans to address the issue.
The faculty now have joined Clemson's graduate student government in asking the university to change the name of the building.
Jane Lindle, a professor of educational leadership with a Tillman Hall office, said the faculty wants the administration to know how strongly it feels about the issue.
It asked the board to rename the building on basis of the school's policy of renaming buildings, which permits renaming buildings when "continued use of a name reflects adversely upon the university."
"I've been here at Clemson for 10 years," Lindle told the Senate. "I've been a part of five search committees of which three were failed searches because while they could accept the history of Clemson, they could not accept working in Tillman Hall. We have lost some very diverse candidates because of it. It's a very adverse effect."
Some faculty who presented counter arguments said it could start Clemson down a slippery slope of renaming other buildings and perhaps the university itself, which is named after Thomas Greene Clemson, who owned slaves on the plantation that would become the university campus.
Vernon Burton, a professor of history and sociology, said Tillman is different than others who may have shared his views but not to his extent.
To many locals, Tillman is known as a founding father who helped charter Clemson and served on its board for life.
"Tillman, to a large portion of the state, represents something entirely different," Burton said.
Jan Holmevik, an associate professor of professional communication and rhetoric, said its time for Clemson to right its wrongs.
"We cannot continue to perpetuate the myth that we are one big, happy family because that family does not include everybody."
Some faculty, like Mikel Cole, an associate professor of language, literacy and culture, have already changed how they refer to Tillman Hall.
In his email signature, Cole strikes out his office address in Tillman Hall. In its place he calls it by one of its original names, Old Main.