The Issue: WKU’s Task Force for Naming and Symbols has been considering changing the name of Potter College of Arts and Letters, which is named after the slave-owning Pleasant J. Potter. Additionally, Ogden College of Science and Engineering and Vanmeter Hall are under consideration to have their names changed.
The Stance: The name change is backed by two of Potter’s descendants (according to the Bowling Green Daily News) but has been met with backlash by some alumni. Particularly from an alumnus who wrote into The Herald.
WKU has been contemplating changing the name of Potter College since last summer. This consideration is due to the namesake of Potter College being Pleasant J. Potter, a slave owner who donated money for the establishment of a school for women in the 1880’s.
Although the debate began in the middle of 2020, it recently regained attention as varying parties have offered their differing opinions. Most recently, the Herald received a letter from an alumnus who has presented their concerns with the idea of changing Potter College’s name.
The alumnus had this to say about the name change: “Most of us learned in our schooling up on the Hill that we cannot judge those who came before us by the standard we live by today. However, both of those people made efforts to make education more available to the general public in their endowments to the university. It is a fair bet they would smile at the fruit of their effort, and then weep at the nonsense of cancel culture today.”
This alumnus did not claim to speak for all alumni on the issue but did include that there are others who feel this way. Though most importantly, the alumnus was most worried about "if the university is going to blatantly fall prey to this and play into the whole cancel culture narrative, I will certainly stand up and say there is a fair bet that many students are going to be beyond angry at this and demand a refund of their tuition, certainly count me in that number.”
Currently, the Herald has not received any differing opinions on the issue. However, the Bowling Green Daily News reported that descendants of Potter, Gill and Douglass Woods Potter, have supported the name change.
We invite you to submit your thoughts through Twitter, Facebook or by emailing email@example.com.
Despite the backlash from alumni such as this, many at WKU support the name change. The connection to slavery is nothing to celebrate and must be condemned.
To some this may seem like an attempt to erase the rich history of the university. However, it is important to remember that as our society progresses, so must this wonderful institution.
WKU was founded on the principle of providing those with lower economic status a higher education, a progressive idea that has provided so many the opportunity to further their education. Progress and change are what this institution stands for, and while difficult for some, it is often for the better.
Changing the name of one of Western’s great colleges will allow for the university to progress and grow with the exciting future that is to come, acknowledging the accomplishments of those who have bettered our institution today.
Let us know your thoughts:
Do you think WKU should rename some of its buildings/colleges with links to slave owners?— WKU Herald (@wkuherald) February 8, 2021