Smith Should Change Building Names With His Name on Them

When I first started at Marshall three years ago, President Gilbert was still relatively new in his executive position.

Coming from an uncontroversial academic background, he seemed to be a popular pick, so I was surprised a few months ago when I heard that he was stepping down as president of Marshall.

The search for a new president was done promptly and transparently, but I would be lying if I said I paid it any attention, and I hardly expected any excitement from the process.

However, the appointment of Brad D. Smith as the next president soon changed that.

Suddenly, it was the talk of the town that a businessman and donor was selected to fill President Gilbert’s position.

I heard numerous cheers from “pragmatic” citizens, and just as many jeers from Marshall’s campus creatures.

Many people in town were excited that Marshall would be helmed by a businessman, while many students and teachers were horrified at Brad Smith’s lack of academic experience.

Smith’s recent multimillion-dollar donations to the university did not relieve this tension, either.

I must say that I myself have no opinion on Smith’s fitness to be university president, and I do not think that Smith’s donations to the university were some sort of bribe (he made similar donations to West Virginia University), but I do think that we must look at the optics of this appointment.

After generous donations from Brad Smith in recent years, Marshall administration decided to name the schools of business and the new campus building after him.

I find it amusing that we still do this in an era where no statue or namesake is safe from the memory hole, but it is still considered business as usual in higher education to name things after donors.

However, now that Brad Smith is to be the university’s new president, I think it appropriate and necessary to rename those aspects of Marshall University that have been named for him.

Can you imagine President Elect Smith at a conference representing the “Brad D. Smith Schools of Business”, or speaking from the currently-in-progress “Brad D. Smith Center for Business and Innovation”?

The cultivar of these inevitable situations would not be the professionalism or prestige that Marshall University seeks, but rather the appearance of a personality cult around our new leader and local millionaire.

Renaming institutions is almost always a sort of insult to the previous namesake, and not a surprising or original suggestion coming from a college student such as myself, which is why I believe it should be President Smith’s priority and first act of business to remove his own name from the institutions he manages.

I doubt said measures will change the opinions of the university’s many scornful professors, but an olive branch it will be.