Student group wants Coffman Union renamed

Tim Post | MPR News | File
The Minnesota Daily reports a student government committee is drafting a resolution to rename the building, named after former university president Lotus Coffman.

The move comes after the exhibition, “A Campus Divided” which focused in part on the university’s history of anti-Semitism, racism and housing segregation of African-American and Jewish students.

Lotus Coffman Coffman, who served from 1920 to 1938, enforced segregationist policies.

Just before the exhibit opened, U president Eric Kaler called on an advisory committee to look at the U’s history.

“The committee members and I take our charge very seriously, and we are doing our due diligence to complete this work thoughtfully and with involvement from University stakeholders,” said College of Liberal Arts Dean John Coleman, who heads the committee.

Kate Dietrick, the archivist for the Upper Midwest Jewish Archives housed in Andersen Library, said she’s interested to see where discussions from the exhibit lead.

“The intention going into this was not to rename buildings, but just to uncover the stories,” Dietrick said.

However, whatever the outcome of the exhibit, Dietrick said she’s happy to see an interest in history, research and archives.

“The materials that we have here in the archives tell really compelling stories that impact today,” she said.

Apoorva Malarvannan, a global studies and political science junior, and a member of the Rename Reclaim Subcommittee in MSA, said she heard of similar incidences at other schools, and was surprised to discover the history behind University building names.

“When we put someone’s name on a building, that means that we are, sort of, passively honoring them,” Malarvannan said. “The question becomes: do we want to honor someone who practiced … policies that explicitly [were] there to exclude black and Jewish students?”

The first report from Kaler’s advisory committee is due this month.