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Clemson University

Clemson’s Calhoun Honors College has a new name after pushback


The Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University is no more.

Days after former football stars Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins joined a number of Clemson athletes past and present on social media that pushed for the name change, it became official Friday.

The honors college will now be known as Clemson University Honors College. The decision was voted on by the Clemson Board of Trustees Friday morning during a special meeting.

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“Board members have felt and feel that it is important to address this matter now rather than wait until July due to the recent events happening across our country,” Clemson BOT Chairman E. Smyth McKissick said. “No one can watch what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis and not be outraged. That terrible death and other incidents across our country reinforced that we all still have work to do, and that includes Clemson.”

While the change Friday came after recent public pushback, it had been in the works for a couple of year years, according to Clemson President Jim Clements.

In 2018 a task force was formed to study and make recommendations on ways to enhance the quality and relevance of the honors college. As part of its conclusion, the task force recommended changing the name.

The name change was slated to be recommended in July before the death of George Floyd and the reaction locally and nationally accelerated the time frame.

“I’m really proud of our Board of Trustees and the incredible leadership that they have shown,” Clements said. “Today the board made a very clear statement about our values.”

Protests all over the country are taking place in response to Floyd’s death in Minnesota last month. Floyd, a black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Clemson’s football team will lead a peaceful protest on campus Saturday evening.

Hopkins said on an Instagram post earlier this week that he doesn’t associate himself with Clemson during NFL introductions because of the university’s ties to John C. Calhoun.

The South Carolina native and politician, who was the vice president of the United States from 1825-1832, is well known for his pro-slavery stance. The Clemson University website says Calhoun “declared that slavery was not an ‘evil,’ but rather a ‘positive good.’”

The honors college on Clemson’s campus had been named the “Calhoun Honors College” after John Calhoun.

“Clemson University has a deep, rich history that is built on tradition rooted in its ideals, its commitment and its values,” McKissick said. “But we must also recognize that there are central figures in Clemson’s history whose ideals, beliefs and actions do not represent the university’s core values of respect and diversity.”

In addition to the honors college, the Board of Trustees also adopted a resolution requesting the South Carolina General Assembly make a one-time exception to the state’s Heritage Act during the 2021 legislative session.

This exception would allow the board to restore Tillman Hall on Clemson’s campus to its original name of the Main Building.

Tillman Hall is named after Ben Tillman, a noted white supremacist. Clemson University’s website says that Tillman “bolstered the idea that white violence was justified and to be expected whenever white supremacy was challenged.”

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