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Recent Town Hall Furthers Efforts to Rename Big Haus

By Cooper Drummond

Poster about the event (via the PSGA and Poli Sci Club)

Thanks to ongoing efforts, a town hall was hosted on Monday, March 14 to discuss upcoming plans to rename the dorm building, Big Haus.

The town hall was a response to the conversation held last semester about the historical significance of the building’s name, which many faculty members and students have noted has ties to the Antebellum plantation that once existed where the campus lies now. A Big House refers to the home belonging to the enslaver who owned a plantation, and it also refers to prison.

Students, faculty and staff attended the meeting, which took place both in a hybrid setting of both in-person and on Zoom.

Nick Astor, the Purchase Student Government Association (PSGA) president, unveiled the student timeline for renaming Big Haus to attendees via Zoom. From March 21 to April 1, students will be able to pitch potential name ideas via collection boxes placed in the Stood, D-hall, library and PSGA office. On April 6 at 12:30 p.m., five potential names will be discussed in front of the PSGA Senate on the third floor of the Student Services building, in the Presidential conference room, where students are encouraged to attend and voice their opinions.

Rachel Rankin, the student activities coordinator of the PSGA, emphasized Monday that all students will be given the opportunity to both participate in pitching names and vote on the final decision.

Tristen Tomlin, an executive director of the Poli Sci club, said that he wants to keep students informed about the voting process and decisions. The PSGA plans on sending students an updated timeline soon so that they are aware of new information as well as an online submissions portal for students to submit name suggestions.

“Poli Sci Club will be working heavily with PSGA to make sure students participate as much as possible and have all the information,” Tomlin said. “I think we have a good base of people who are interested in this and want to participate. At the town hall, there was about 50 people present, including the political science club, PSGA, faculty and students. 300 people were involved in a petition that we got out.”

“There are going to be enough people who are engaged and know, people will not be able to ignore it and will know about the name change,” said Rankin at the town hall. She acknowledged that “grassroots methods” like Instagram stories can help spread the message to students throughout the process.

The goal is to get the renaming finished by the Fall 2022 semester, but there is no guarantee that will happen, according to Candace White, the Coordinator of Student Involvement and Programming and advisor to the PSGA. Regardless, there are potential plans at the end of the Spring 2022 semester to have a ceremony. There may also be temporary signs over the dorm.

White said that there are multiple steps involved to get the name officially changed. The legal team, housing, facilities, and accessibility team all need to be informed of the name change so they can update their files and be consistent.

After the initial plan was revealed, students in the town hall used the remaining time to pitch ideas. Overall, the Political Science Club is satisfied with what has been accomplished already.

“I’m really impressed by those young people,” said Dr. Samuel Galloway, an assistant professor of political science and the faculty advisor for the Political Science Club. He was the host of Monday’s town hall meeting.

“It's really nice to see everybody getting involved, drumming up and getting ready to take action," said Ariela Ziu, an executive director of the Political Science Club. “I think the most important part is that a lot of this is very much action-driven.”

“I'm happy with what has been accomplished,” said Anthony Minyard, another executive director of the Political Science Club. “I think that the renaming efforts and also just the surrounding events, there's so many things that we're doing that they're planning on trying to restore. They’re going to have like some sort of exhibit for the enslaved names. And the creation of the Black Student Union as well is all part of this whole movement towards justice.”

“Our campus shouldn’t be a place where we commemorate cultures of captivity and subjugation,” said Galloway. "We should be a space where we welcome, inclusion, diversity, justice, and which treats that legacy of [Big Haus], and not just the name but of enslavement, as not something to deny or cover over, or whitewash, or downplay, or mitigate, but really embrace.”



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