South Carolina

Naming Clemson college for former VP Calhoun glorifies ‘racist viewpoint,’ students say

Clemson University
Clemson University

A group of Clemson students are calling for the removal of a former U.S. vice president’s name from a college program, saying the name is “glorifying a racist viewpoint.”

Students petitioned for university officials to rename the school’s Calhoun Honors College, named after the seventh vice president and South Carolina statesman John C. Calhoun.

Calhoun was a staunch supporter of slavery, and notably called the practice a “positive good” in a speech in 1837. He owned 70 to 80 slaves, who worked his plantation in Fort Hill.

Clemson University is built on Calhoun’s old plantation grounds, which was passed along his family until it was given to the state of South Carolina in 1888, according to the university’s website. The plantation house still sits on campus.

John C. Calhoun

A petition shared by the Southern Poverty Law Center on Campus — Clemson proposed that the college simply be called the “Clemson Honors College.”

“Simply put, the university would not be further glorifying a racist viewpoint on a campus that already exists under the scars of slavery and human degradation,” the petition reads.

The petition claims that students are loath to use the honors college’s name on documents and emails.

“The ‘brand’ of the Calhoun name is one that many honors students leave off of their resumes and email signatures, since they take it to be poorly reflective of the institution,” the petition reads.

The students argue that renaming the college would not be removing Calhoun’s legacy from the university, citing the old plantation home as a stark reminder of the campus’s history.

So far, the petition has gathered about 10 pages of signatures.