The names of B.K. Roberts and Francis Eppes are a major concern of Florida State University’s new statue and building name review panel, if public comment at Monday’s meeting is any indication.
The advisory panel, created by FSU president John Thrasher in the wake of the violent acts in Charlottesville, Virginia, also discussed university rules and future efforts to ensure transparency.
The Students for Democratic Society (SDS) chapter at the university spoke first, sharing its reasons for removing a statue commemorating Eppes, a grandson of Thomas Jefferson and a Leon County slave owner.
SDS previously championed a referendum to remove the statue, but that failed. The Tallahassee Democrat reported last October that FSU students “overwhelmingly defeated a proposal seeking the removal of a statue honoring … Eppes from campus and the removal of his name from a campus building.”
Zachary Schultz, a member of SDS, told the panel he could provide it with research surrounding Eppes’ role in the Confederacy and slave activity.
He also lauded the work the panel will do to review what other universities have done to reconsider controversial statues.
“We look forward to … progressive steps in removing racist slave owners and other figures that really should not be on college campuses,” Schultz told the panel.
Danni Vogt, who said he was a three-time graduate of FSU, voiced his concerns over B.K. Roberts Hall.
Roberts was the dean of the university’s law school and a former Florida chief justice. He also wrote the Florida Supreme Court’s 1957 majority opinion to deny law school admission to Virgil Hawkins, an African American, at the University of Florida.
“No one really took into account how Virgil Hawkins felt,” Vogt told the committee, addressing the fact that Roberts’ opinion occurred at a time when schools were still segregated.
Vogt said he would be developing a website that can serve as a resource for the panel. The site will serve as a database for information and research regarding Roberts and Hawkins.
Following comment time, the panel (its full name is “The Florida State University President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions”) discussed its agenda and toyed with the idea of hosting an open forum.
The next meeting is Dec. 13; by then, it expects to post minutes and meeting notices regularly.