MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Macalester College in St. Paul is going to remove the name of its founder from two buildings after students made it known to school officials that the man’s historical writings and attitudes toward Native Americans were racist.
According to a Macalester spokesperson, exterior signage with Neill’s name has already been removed.
The college announced Monday that its board of trustees voted to remove the name of The Rev. Edward Duffield Neill from Neill Hall and the Neill Room in Weyerhaeuser Hall. New names for the building and the room will be suggested by a committee.
According to a statement from the college, the changes came following outcry from students who read Neill’s historical writings and discovered language and attitudes toward Native Americans that were “racist and dehumanizing in the extreme.”
“Now that those writings have been discovered…they cannot be ignored or dismissed,” the statement from the college said. “All on the Board are keenly aware of the complexity surrounding the question of renaming buildings and of judging figures in the past by the standards of the present. We are aware that even people who do good things can also do bad things, and that history is complicated. But we believe, too, that abhorrent beliefs and writings that stand out even within an historical context should not be overlooked, and that continuing to honor Neill as if these beliefs and writings were not unearthed would be wrong.”
Macalester says it will not be reexamining the names of all its buildings, nor will it be erasing Neill from its history. Instead, the college vowed to recognize his contributions and flaws in a way other than having a building bear his name.
For the time being, Neill Hall will revert to its former name, “the Humanities Building.” The college changed it to Neill Hall in 2013 in an effort to remove confusion, as most of the humanities departments are not housed in that building. The college says that had Neill’s racist writings been known to the board of trustees at the time, the building would not have been named in his honor.
Neill founded Macalester in 1874. He was also a historian and the author of several books, mainly on colonial and Minnesota history. He also served as the first chancellor of the University of Minnesota, and founded two churches in the state.