The Student Government Association held a vote to change the name of Byrd Stadium today. In a vote of 13 yeses, two noes and two abstentions, SGA supported a name change for the arena.
The controversy stems from Byrd’s racist background. Byrd opposed this university’s racial integration. In 1937, when Byrd was president, the university refused to play Syracuse unless the team benched its black player. However, the university admitted its first black student in 1951, which was three years before the U.S. Supreme Court ordered integration at state-run universities.
This is not the first time students have protested the stadium’s name. In light of the recently surfaced email, sent by a former Kappa Sigma fraternity member and student, the renaming has gained renewed support.
“Opposition says that if we looked into every person who has a building named after them, we’d find an incredible amount of racist and sexist people,” said junior government and politics major Tom Klotz, who supported changing the name of the stadium. “However, every primary source says [Byrd] was a segregationist.”
Klotz said by changing the name, the university would show support and inclusion of black student-athletes instead of keeping Byrd as a symbol of the athletics program.
Changing the name of the stadium would be a huge step forward, Klotz said.
Senior sociology major Colin Byrd is a “second-generation Terp,” whose father graduated from this university in 1978.
“For me, [renaming the stadium] is a no brainer,” Byrd said. “The message that this university sends is clear; for the right price, you can buy the right to be a racist and you can call yourself a proud Terp. To me, that is absolutely the wrong message.”
“Tell the Board of Regents to say goodbye to Curley,” Byrd said when he spoke in front of the SGA. “And tell them to do it quickly.”
While students pressured the SGA into taking a stance on renaming Byrd Stadium, the organization does not posses any immediate power to do so. However, the organization’s stance could pressure university officials to take action, said SGA Speaker of the Legislature Aiden Galloway.
“We’re still trying to get information from all affected sources,” Galloway said. “We don’t want to rush into this decision, but we do want to address student concerns.”
In addition to clearing a racist person from being the namesake of an important university landmark, renaming Byrd Stadium could help the university financially because it would garner media attention, according to South Hill Rep. Annie Rice.
“The first thing people know about a school is the stadium name, especially in the Big 10,” Rice said.
While select students and SGA members agree Byrd Stadium should be renamed, there is only so much they can accomplish without administrative action.
Maya Pottiger is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.