Caboni: WKU will keep names of Potter, Ogden colleges, Van Meter Hall; dorm to be renamed Munday Hall


The university doesn’t plan to pursue any building or college name changes including removing Robert Ogden of Ogden College, Pleasant J. Potter of Potter College and Charles Vanmeter of Vanmeter Hall. All three figures have ties to slavery as detailed in the report by the Naming and Symbols Task Force.

Debra Murray, Digital News Editor

The names of Potter College, Ogden College and Van Meter Hall will remain intact, WKU President Timothy Caboni said in an email on Wednesday, despite a committee’s recommendation for change because their namesakes had connections to slavery in the 19th century.

“After much consideration and reflection, I am not prepared to recommend to the Board of Regents the removal of any names from university buildings of academic colleges,” Caboni said in the email, in which he presented the recommendations of the Naming and Symbols Task Force he appointed last year.

“While we fervently disagree with their views on slavery, we also acknowledge that their perspectives were not unlike many of their time,” Caboni said. “We should exercise caution when judging those in the past using a modern lens.”

Caboni said the removal of those three names could cause “financial harm” to the university.

The recommendations were among 26 that the task force put forward, which included contextualizing the name of Kelly Thompson Hall, named after WKU’s third president, because of the university’s slow progress toward integration during his tenure and his efforts to expand campus where a historically Black community once stood.

In the next regular Board of Regents meeting, Caboni will recommend the renaming of Northeast Hall to Munday Hall. The name change will honor Margaret Munday, the first African American student to attend WKU. Munday, who graduated in 1960 with a degree in music, is a 2012 inductee into WKU’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni and was a trailblazer on campus. This will be the first building on campus to be named after an African American.

“Northeast Hall is one of the most centrally located buildings on campus, and nearly every student passes it on a regular basis,” Jace Lux, director of media relations said. “Seeing Margaret Munday’s name serves as a constant reminder of her historic achievements.”

In addition to the name change of Northeast Hall, WKU will begin immediately implementing 11 other recommendations.

The university will update the Philanthropic and Honorific Naming Policy and Protocols to add a more formal evaluation process for those whose names will be affixed to university buildings going forward.

Another step the university is taking is the Jonesville Reconciliation Working Group, named after the predominantly African American community in Bowling Green that was demolished in the 1960s to expand campus.

Part of the group’s work will be to add honorific naming of spaces on campus after Jonesville and host an annual conference for Jonesville residents or descendants and WKU community.

Other recommendations include increasing financial support for the Cynthia and George Nichols III Intercultural Student Engagement Center (ISEC), adding more minority-owned restaurants on campus, ensuring admissions office maintains a bi-lingual staff and by joining the Universities Studying Slavery Consortium. The group is a multi-institutional collaboration focused on sharing practices and guiding principles about projects addressing human bondage and racism in institutional histories.

Digital News Editor Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy