Tuesday, 12/05/06
Petition causes student leaders to change minds
Gannett Tennessee

MURFREESBORO — The debate over Nathan Bedford Forrest continues at MTSU as the student Senate has changed its mind that the Confederate general’s name be removed from a campus building

The campus controversy concerning Forrest goes back at least as far as the mid-1970s. It came up again when senior Amber Perkins presented a petition to the student government signed by 205 students requesting a name change for Forrest Hall, the ROTC building.

The vote to rescind came after student Matthew Hurtt presented a list with 1,350 names on it, said Gretchen Jenkins, the student senator who sponsored the vote to rescind the previous decision. Not all those who signed it were MTSU students.

"When we first voted on it, I voted against changing the name because I didn’t think we should make a hasty decision," said Jenkins, a junior political science major.

"People were making it out to be race issue, which it’s not at all. I think it’s a matter of history and people not understanding history."

MTSU to hold symposium

She looks forward to the university’s plan to hold symposiums about Forrest to better inform students about the Confederate military leader’s place in history.

"He was not the grand wizard of the KKK that everyone makes him out to be," Jenkins said. "People don’t understand that you can change the name of a building, but it’s not going to change history and it’s not going to change what happened."

Perkins said she’s not upset with the student government.

"We’re still going to press forth the issue," said Perkins, a sociology major.

‘Not a racial issue’

Hurtt contends it’s not a racial issue to have Forrest’s name on the ROTC building.

"If it was a cultural learning center, it would probably be inappropriate, but it’s not," said Hurtt, a sophomore history major. "It’s a military science building, and Forrest is known for his contributions to the military and to Murfreesboro."

On July 13, 1862, Forrest led a raid on Murfreesboro to capture it from Union troops and set Confederate supporters free from imprisonment, Hurtt said. "He saved Murfreesboro," Hurtt said. "You can see how he contributed directly to Murfreesboro."

Before the latest student Senate vote, Hurtt met with Perkins and other "Students Against Forrest" to discuss a compromise. Afterward, the two sides disagreed over whether an agreement was reached.

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