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Duke students want former president’s name stripped from residence hall

Another day, another cancel attempt on a college campus

Some students at Duke University want to see the namesake of their residence hall canceled due to his past support for the Confederacy and his ownership of slaves.

The Craven Quad Council emailed the residents of the dormitory to inform them about Braxton Craven and his legacy. It also reportedly organized a meeting to share the concerns.

Craven (pictured) is a former president of Trinity College, which became Duke University, and originally supported the Union and opposed secession, according to the “Dictionary of North Carolina Biography.” However, he supported slavery and owned three slaves himself and came to support the Confederacy.

“As Quad Council, we are committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming community for all our residents and we believe that it is important to acknowledge and address the legacy of individuals who have contributed to our institution’s history,” the council wrote, according to a copy reviewed by The Chronicle. “We also understand the importance of this moment in our university’s history as we come together under the banner of QuadEx and invite everyone to develop a shared identity that unites us.”

Additionally, Craven Quad Council asked future and current Quad residents to fill out a survey regarding the name change, as well as take part in a public input meeting.

“The public input meeting and survey is meant to be a way for people to provide their opinions and see how most residents feel about it,” the Quad Council wrote, according to the student newspaper.

The Fix attempted to reach the Craven Quad Council on April 25 through an online submission form but there were technical glitches so it is not clear if it went through. The Fix also reached out to the student affairs office to ask if it could share questions on if a formal request had been submitted or to provide alternate contact information for the group, but no response was received.

The Fix reached out to Duke University’s media relations team on April 25 and asked if Craven Quad Council had formally submitted a request to change the name and what the process is for unnaming a building. The university responded on May 10 and said it would provide a response “soon.” No further information has been provided as of May 16.

The university maintains a standing committee on “institutional history” that reviews renaming requests.

MORE: U. Buffalo student government tries to cancel YAF club

The Fix also attempted to reach Thomas Hines, a descendant of Craven, to ask him for this opinion on the cancellation attempt. The Fix tried to reach him through a media relations office through the Navy. Hines is a dentist and commanding officer in Japan.

A historical commentator told The Fix that the university should reject the renaming request.

“Duke university should be steadfast in its educational mission,” Mary Grabar told The Fix via email. “That means promoting inquiry into the human condition. The opposite of that is to slander people from the past who do not agree 100 percent with the predetermined position of a select group whose views are very narrow.”

“Cancel culture began on college campuses. It began when universities abandoned their educational missions and began attacking and deconstructing the past and Western civilization,” she said. “Over the past few decades it has spread to the workplace and education, K-12.”

An archivist for Duke University has expressed similar sentiments when it came to controversial historical figures.

Campus Archivist Valerie Gillispie explored the complicated history of Duke University in an article titled, “Let’s Embrace Duke’s Entire History,” in Duke Magazine. She specifically mentioned Craven’s ownership of slaves in her article.

“As a university archivist, I seek to tell the stories of Duke University, and some of the stories are painful,” the archivist wrote. “Our history is not something to overcome or to get over—this institutional history is alive in our bodies, our experiences, and our buildings.”

She has received training through Duke’s “Pursuing Respect, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity” program, according to her university bio.

“We can explore our past and learn about difficult parts of our history, and still love Duke and all the good that it does,” she wrote.

MORE: Check out the Campus Cancel Culture Database

IMAGE: Duke Law School

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About the Author
College Fix Contributor Emily Fowler is a student at The Master's University, where she studies music. She previously received an associate's degree in arts and sciences at Wabash Valley College. She also writes for Campus Reform, where she is a senior correspondent.