By EVAN BARKER

The brouhaha surrounding MTSU’s Forrest Hall went too far.

Originally, I predicted that the debate would be lukewarm and short-lived, but I failed to account for two factors: MTSU’s location in the South and the power of misguided people in large groups. Be that as it may, it is high time we made something productive out of this whine-fest.

This debacle was silly for several reasons. For one, the people that started the "Students against Forrest Hall" group reportedly decided to have a protest because they believe that students don’t protest enough anymore. However, they needed something to protest, so they arbitrarily picked an easy target, a former Confederate hero. They chose an even easier action: simply removing someone’s name from a building. We can all sleep soundly knowing that these altruistic individuals aim to protect us from dangerous letters on a wall.

The actions of these students struck a nerve with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, white supremacists, civil war historians and pretty much anyone generally opposed to revisionist history. The forces aligned around two sides, aimed at either rewriting history by removing its references or keeping the status quo.

It’s the American way — everything is black and white, and there are never more than two choices. As often is the case, they’re both rotten.

For those actively embroiled in this debate, I humbly suggest new ways to vent your anger. Write a grant proposal to start a new history department at MTSU. The new department would be called "The Center for Civil War Studies at MTSU." You could get a big-name professor to teach about Nathan Bedford Forrest and learn actual facts instead of arguing on the Internet and signing vaguely-worded petitions. You could turn this negative publicity into something positive for MTSU.

If you like studying the racial divide, go into the Keathley University Center Grill at noon on a weekday. You will notice that there are two distinctly different areas in which white and black students tend to sit. There is an actual racial divide that you can witness, instead of a questionable one invoked by a name on a building. You could also choose to protest MTSU’s low graduation rate. A good way to do this would be to stay home and study. Basically, do something other than whining about Forrest Hall.

I am not arguing one way or the other on the Forrest Building’s name. I am illustrating that the argument thereof is absurd. It is intentionally divisive, and proposes no solutions past the removal of a name. Nothing says "progress" like the newly commissioned "Between the KUC and Tucker Theater Hall." Changing "Forrest" won’t make people intermingle in the grill.

The path to real progress is not in hasty resolutions, half-baked protests or renaming buildings. We can chose, as an informed student body, to cry over spilt milk or to be a leader in historical research and dialogue on this touchy subject. Put some teeth in your protest and your money where your mouth is, or pipe down and stay out of the fight.

Copyright © 2006, tennessean.com

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