Students meet to discuss renaming of Jenkins Hall


Hannah Graham

Students for a Democratic Society president John Ross stands before a group of interested students and faculty on Thursday, August 30, to talk about the renaming of Jenkins Hall.


Students met in Harris Hall 135 Thursday for an hour long meeting about the name of Marshall University’s Jenkins Hall. The Students for a Democratic Society sponsored this public forum where students and faculty were welcome to come and be a part of the conversation.

John Ross, the president of Students for a Democratic Society, spoke about the nature of the education building and of Albert Jenkins himself. Ross said Albert Jenkins was the owner of a major slave plantation in West Virginia, owned over 50 slaves and died a Confederate soldier. For these reasons, the Students for a Democratic Society decided it was important to discuss the renaming.

Ross framed the meeting as a discussion and said every person in the room was not a mere listener, but an active part of the conversation surrounding the issue. Ross said he was happy about the number of people attending, but he also said that he was disappointed with the number as well.

“Why aren’t there 6,000 people here? This issue is such a big deal for us as students,” Ross, junior humanities major, said.

Ross said the silent majority of students on campus played a key role in the barrier between activists and tangible results.

“Our goal here is to start a strong anti-racist movement,” he said. “We are so lucky to have an administration that listens to our concerns, but we need to continue to be loud.”

Ross said he did not want his ethos to have as much weight in this issue, and he thought it was the utmost importance that black students, more than anybody else, have their voices heard the most in this conversation about racist institutions.

Brianna Baker was the only black student in attendance at this meeting.

“I think we need to advertise this issue better so that black education majors like myself are made aware,” Baker, junior elementary education major, said. “I didn’t know about this until I saw a flyer in Jenkins Hall the other day. I think we need to build a general audience so that we can have a more diverse panel of students.”

Students and faculty had ideas for the renaming of Jenkins Hall. Some people suggested conducting a campus-wide poll via a platform like MUOnline. Others suggested that instead of renaming the building, putting a plaque on the outside of Jenkins Hall that described what kind of man Albert Jenkins was.

“We could always de-name Jenkins instead of renaming it,” Leif Olson, a graduate student studying public health, said. “The Science Building is just called the Science Building. Instead of trying to find some notable person to name the building after, we can just call it ‘The Education Building.’”

Steven Powers, a graduate psychology student in support of the name change, mentioned that John Marshall himself owned slaves, and running a campaign to rename Jenkins Hall because Albert Jenkins owned slaves could land the university in murky water.

Associate history professor David Trowbridge said that even as a Confederate commander, it is very unique that Marshall chooses to memorialize Jenkins.

“When framing from a military perspective, we typically do not decorate cowardice,” Trowbridge said. “Commander Jenkins was well known for moving with great haste away from the Union and was notably late to Gettysburg.”

Christie Kinsey, the chair of the Ad Hoc Presidential committee heading the issue, was also in attendance. During the closing comments, Kinsey said while a public forum like the one sponsored by Students for a Democratic Society was healthy and productive, the Marshall University Board of Governors has the final say and will decide what happens with this issue.

The Students for a Democratic Society plan to sponsor another similar conversation in Harris Hall 135 at 6 p.m. September 13. Once again, students, faculty and the general public will be welcome to attend.

Hannah Graham can be reached at [email protected]

*Editor’s note: This story has been updated as of August 30 at 3:15 p.m.