A new process for submitting names to rename buildings on campus was set at the meeting of the Presidential Commission on University History on Thursday. Additionally, the commission voted to support reconciliation with a Black neighborhood the university displaced in the '70s and '80s.
Andrea L'Hommedieu, the director of oral history for University Libraries, laid out the new process during the call.
First, a summary of the building's history and its purpose is needed, followed by a historical summary of who the building is currently named after. The final step will be hearing arguments for retaining the current name, and then arguments against retaining the current name. Once all steps are complete, a recommendation will be written and sent to the full commission.
"Now that we have the criteria set, I think we can really get to work," L'Hommedieu said.
L'Hommedieu said she might begin to schedule meetings of her subcommittee, Names on Landscape, to once every two weeks as the commission enters this next phase.
The university history subcommittee had narrowed down its top-five names for renaming but have since expanded to include names recommended by the NAACP chapter of USC, according to Jennifer Gunter, the director of the South Carolina Collaborative on Race and Reconciliation. The subcommittee is currently working on summaries for each recommendation.
Later in the meeting, Gunter said the committee received two letters from former residents and descendants of former residents of the Wheeler Hill community and the clergy of Saint James African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.
The Wheeler Hill community was located across from Blossom Street before the university expanded during the '70s and '80s. University expansion, government use of eminent domain and demolition of community structures drove out most of the Black population during the '70s and '80s.
Gunter asked the full commission, on behalf of her subcommittee, to vote to write a letter supporting Saint James AME Church's request for reconciliation through the purchase of four lots surrounding the church, leaving the lots to the church.
The university would purchase the four lots on behalf of and for the church.
In the letter from Saint James AME Church, the former USC president in 1968, Thomas F. Jones, is quoted.
"'For many years, it has been the goal of the university and the city of Columbia to attempt wipe out the entire slum area of approximately 12 blocks, known as Wheeler Hill,'" Gunter quoted from the letter.
The vote to write the letter of support was passed.
Valinda Littlefield, meeting facilitator and associate professor of history, confirmed the commission will plan another public meeting for dialogue with the community in the future.