Those DEI wokesters are canceling again

Look at this lovely building on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.

That’s Nicholson Hall, named after a university professor and administrator in the 1930s & 40s. There is a campaign in the works to rename the building, and also several other buildings on campus, for some unfathomable reason.

1. Nicholson repeatedly controlled and often suppressed the open exchange of ideas on campus that as Dean of Student Affairs he was obligated to protect.
2. Nicholson created a secret political surveillance system at the university and covertly shared information about students and faculty.
3. Nicholson brought disrepute to the University by using his stature as a highly visible University administrator to advance partisan political ends outside the University.
4. Nicholson, while serving as a dean, sought to influence the selection of Regents for his own political ends, a gross conflict of interest and duty as a neutral University administrator.
We call for the removal of Edward Nicholson’s name because we support the University of Minnesota’s commitment to honor those whose behavior is consistent with the University’s mission and guiding principles, maintain the integrity of the University and enhance its reputation, upholding thereby the high principles of our state and university. We likewise support the University of Minnesota’s commitment to revoke any naming inconsistent with these values. As scholars of Jewish Studies as well as other fields, we share a deep commitment to recognizing and analyzing the immense cost to religious and racial minorities at the hands of those in power in societies that have oppressed them. Some of our scholarship and teaching focuses on leftist and progressive movements, ideas and activism that are a powerful strand in modern Jewish history and were openly and unrelentingly attacked by Edward Nicholson. We are all too aware of what happened to Jews, minorities, and political dissenters throughout the world when state and institutional power was used against them and their allies. We are also attuned to the social and political conditions under which civic life flourishes and has been most successful in assuring the rights of religious and racial minorities.
The University of Minnesota has committed itself to educate for and foster a democratic and pluralist civil society committed to the very openness that Edward Nicholson worked assiduously to undermine.

Oh. Anti-semitic authoritarian who tried to manipulate the university to support conservative/racist political goals? I guess that is a pretty good reason to stop honoring him with a building name. Especially considering that building now houses the Center for Jewish Studies.

Other buildings those woke rascals are going after include Coffman Hall. I know that one well, that’s the huge student union building, centrally located and a fairly common meeting place when I visit the Twin Cities campus. What did he do?

President Coffman requested the University Senate to track data about students in the mid-1930s. He wanted specifically to track “Negro and Jewish out-of-state students.” These students required on-campus housing, and Coffman opposed integrating taxpayer-funded dorms. New York Jews were a subset of who was tracked because Coffman believed they were the source of radicalism on campus.

Is that all? Wait, there’s more.

• Coffman in 1931 wrote: “The races have never lived together, nor have they ever sought to live together.”

• His administration repeatedly excluded black students from student housing. The report says Coffman was “extremely cautious about allowing even a single instance to establish ‘precedent’ for integrated housing.”

• He considered creating an “International House” for non-white U students to live, but ultimately decided it was too expensive.

• Under Coffman, the U’s nursing school would not allow black students to care for white patients.

• After Jack Trice, a black Iowa State football player, died from injuries sustained during a 1923 game against Minnesota, Coffman batted down accusations that U players had assaulted Trice. Coffman again defended the football team in 1934 after writers said Minnesota players had targeted Ozzie Simmons, another black athlete.

• Coffman authorized surveillance efforts on student activists, including those who protested racial discrimination or were believed to be Jewish or associated with communism.

I am now feeling a bit queasy about all the times I walked through that building, not having the slightest idea who Coffman was.

They were all “men of their time” I guess, all powerful conservative white men who sought to exclude students who were not similarly white. Screw ’em. Strip those names from the buildings and name them after people who actually supported diverse Americans and the university’s egalitarian educational goals.

And if twenty years from now, we realize that those new people were horribly flawed and hurt people, strip off their names again. There’s nothing sacred or permanent about naming stuff.


  1. drewl, Mental Toss Flycoon says

    Wow… I went to school there and worked for them for 10 years and never knew any of that.

    I had a class in Nicholson (don’t remember which class) thought it was a cool building. Coffman was the commuter lounge where we would meet between classes to study, play pinball, or go down to the river and smoke weed. Good times…

  2. Artor says

    The fact that Coffman was spying on students who protested racial discrimination means that Coffman was not just “a product of his time.” He was a racist fuck. He could have been one of those who protested racial discrimination, but he chose poorly.

  3. Snarki, child of Loki says

    I suggest just naming building according to their function.

    i.e., “Jewish Studies Building”

    That’ll cut down on the “Buildings named after people that we now know are horrible”. Fortunately, the functions get changed much earlier, so there’s no “Eugenics Building”.

    One hopes.

  4. John Morales says

    I can’t get worked up over it, myself, either way.

    It’s just a name, a label.

    Notably, both PZ in the OP (“not having the slightest idea who Coffman was”) and Drewl @1 (“never knew any of that”) didn’t know until it was pointed out.

    (Though I suppose not that many children are named ‘Adolf’, are they? ;)

  5. drew says

    Honestly, the level of alarm here is a bit over the top, considering you just failed to follow genocidal perpetrators through to the obvious roots.

    Tomorrow is another slobberingly-important liberal fantasy of victimization. Just wait a moment . . .

  6. imback says

    (Though I suppose not that many children are named ‘Adolf’, are they? ;)

    My great grandfather was named Adolf. As a German living in England, he spent the whole of WWI in a concentration camp on the Isle of Man while his English wife and family suffered and his shop in Manchester went kaput. He came out an embittered man, and they all emigrated to America, and he rooted for his namesake in WWII. By the time I knew him, he was a senile old coot.

    There’s nothing sacred or permanent about naming stuff.

    I heartily agree. We should have no qualms about renaming stuff when appropriate. Maryland was named after the wife of the ultimately beheaded Charles I, and she never came to America and preferred France to England and went by Henriette or Henriette Marie, not Mary. People from that state should come up with a new name.

  7. andywuk says

    If it’s good enough for the Romans and ancient Egyptians… (last weeks emperor, Akhenaten, etc)

    Renaming or demolishing statues and monuments to people who have fallen out of favour isn’t exactly new or exclusively “woke”.

  8. robro says

    We’ve got a long running renaming story going on here in Marin, California. Sir. Francis Drake is thought to have landed on the coast here during one of his excursions. So things were named for him as the community grew in the early 20th century including a local high school and a major road that goes east-west through the county practically all the way to Drakes Bay. In the 21st century this became controversial because he was a very bad guy. I believe killing, raping, pillaging, colonialism, and slave trading were in his repertoire. So a few things have changed. The high school was renamed for Archie Williams, a man from Oakland who won an Olympic gold medal at the 1936 Berlin games. But Sir Francis Drake Blvd. has not changed because the politicians and the voters can’t agree on a new name.

  9. StevoR says

    @ ^ robro : As a kid I used to adore Sir Francis Drake :

    as a hero from reading the ladybird history books esp the one on him :

    He was a historical hero of mine once; an explorer, an adventurer, he saved Elizabethan England from the Spanish Armada one of the great underdog vicxtory stories, he was the second man andto circumnavigate the world – and the first captiain to survive dto complete the journey since Magellan died en route. He was a bold pirate Ël Draco” who famously singed the “King of Spain’s beard”” and plundered the Spainish treasure galleons sailing with stolen Incan and Aztec gold. They didn’t mention that he was also a slave trader :

    Or if they did it was a breif line glossed over quickly. Or anything about the Rathlin island massacre of 600 unarmed people. Ther’s a lot the books and the pictures in them that had me idolising Drake left out, glossed over or under played.

    I don’t idolise Drake any more. I wish history had been taught more evenly and that things like that Irish massacre and Drake’s role in slavery had been taught and emphaised more. Albeit they don’t make such inspiring books for kids.

  10. Walter Solomon says

    went by Henriette or Henriette Marie, not Mary.

    Her subjects called her “Mary” though so that’s what matters.

  11. birgerjohansson says

    A rule of thumb: if past assholes acted in a way that David Duke would have approved of, just rename the building.

    About non-university names: I realise Abraham Lincoln is seen as a demigod over in your country, but the fucker deported indian tribes.
    The only president that seems halfway worthy of statues/naming stuff is Jimmy Carter. And even he has f*cked up over human rights- just ask the Koreans.

    If you must name buildings after people, try John Brown. Or maybe that pilot who landed a passenger plane in a river in New York, saving everyone on board.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    I have -after some work- finally found a case where ‘woke’ went a bit too far.
    An old white-painted hall in a Swedish university was called ‘The White Sea’ after, you know, the sea east of Finland. Some thought this smelled of white supremacy and there was a big controversy.

    But the rarity of such foolishness underlines that being woke about naming stuff usually is OK. And we generally have toned down the celebrations of king Gustav Wasa -the George Washington of Sweden- because he was a lot like the tyrannical king in ‘The Wizard of Id’ (do Mericans still read that cartoon? I liked it a lot).

  13. Silentbob says

    @ StevoR

    Off topic, but I remember as a kid learning the legend of Drake finishing his game of bowls before dispatching the Spanish armada.

    (For those who don’t get it a more modern equivalent might be Churchill finishing a game of cricket before defeating a Nazi invasion )

    Anyway, I enjoyed your comment even if the real guy was horrendous.

  14. andersk3 says

    My position has long been and continues to be “don’t name anything after a person”. Several examples in the comments illustrate the fact that, basically, no ones legacy lives up to the passage of time.

  15. says

    When I left the University of Oregon the buildings in the science complex were renamed from boring Science I, Science II, and Science III to regional names: Willamette, Klamath, Cascade etc. That was safe. Later a building was named Streisinger, after George, who was a really good guy, progressive, cooperative, helpful, and brilliant. I can’t help but approve.
    If Streisinger gets renamed at some time in decades to come, that’s OK.
    Unless, of course, they rename it after some insurance company or sporting goods store. Then I’ll be annoyed, if I’m not dead already.
    The building I work in at UMM now is just named Science.

  16. says

    #14: Here in Minnesota what pisses us off about Lincoln is that he allowed the mass hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato in 1862. That makes me question the veneration of the man.

  17. mastmaker says

    If I were all-powerful, I would implement a rule that no building/airport/structure/entity be named after someone for AT LEAST 20 years after their death, until we can be reasonably sure that all the skeletons in their closets have been completely discovered.
    This thought came to me in late 2001 as I contemplated the most egregious violation of it in my neck of the woods: San Jose airport was named after Norman Mineta , THE THEN secretary of transportation in remembrance of “the great achievement” of stopping all air traffic immediately after 9/11 attacks. He continued to be secretary of transportation for 5 more years while having this airport named after him, with no shame at all!

  18. ANB says

    I live in Ft. Bragg, CA and am on a committee to Change The Name. You can’t believe the blowback we get from long time locals. (I’m relatively new here). We’re just trying to educate people as to who the town was named after (Confederate general, traitor to the US, slave holder, and the fort established to “control” the natives, etc.). The attachment to the name is incredible. Their only argument is “my family has lived here for generations” blather. Seriously.

  19. robro says

    ANB @ #21 — I have been to Ft. Bragg, CA several times, but didn’t realize it was named for Braxton Bragg. Ft. Bragg, North Carolina was also named for Braxton, but it was renamed Fort Liberty in 2022. To the shame of the US Army, the North Carolina version was named for Braxton Bragg in 1918 so is position vis-à-vis the US would have been well known. I guess it because he was an artillery officer and from North Carolina. Still a traitor, slave owner, and all around washout in life.

  20. rwiess says

    I spent a lot of undergraduate time in The Oceanography Building ( U of Washington, Seattle). It was eventually renamed after a professor – the one whose hands I had to peel off my breasts, then one whom I saw walk past his secretary and not miss a step while sweeping a hand up her front and down her back, ending with a flick of the wrist off her rump, the one about whom the other secretaries said “I don’t know how she stands it.” Haven’t even worked up to re-visiting the building yet.

  21. Prax says

    One of my great-grandparents was Karl Onthank, an administrator at the University of Oregon. Big conservationist, and worked hard to keep Japanese grad students out of the internment camps during WWII. Also a man of his time, presumably; I don’t think he was educated by time travelers.

    AFAIK there’s no building named after him. William Haseltine’s family donated a sculpture to the campus in his honor, but it isn’t of him and isn’t named after him. Which is fine, I don’t think he was much for monuments anyway.

  22. microraptor says

    As I recall from back when I was in college, a lot of the buildings on campus were named after rich people who donated money to the school.

  23. says

    I hung out in the UW oceanography building for a while, while I was sorting out my major, but then I settled on Kincaid Hall, named after some ancient zoology professor, which apparently is now obsolete and all the biologists are housed in the better-named Life Sciences Building.

  24. Diego Rodriguez says

    Erasing the names of proven assholes from buildings is far by me. But I come from a country where there are people who struggle from erasing the names of fascist war criminals and Nazi collaborators from streets, so…

    Regarding the Spanish Armada being an underdog victory I’m sad to tell you that is commonly believed myth, English and Spanish had the same number of cannons and the biggest battle on the whole thing ended with 300 Spanish casualties ( and two ships lost) and 200 English ones. The Spanish Armada was not really defeated by the English, it was defeated primarily by the storms and winds in the North Sea and by the incompetence of their admiral (which didn’t even want the position, since he openly said he knew nothing of either sailing or war) who just followed orders blindly to the letter without accounting for things like weather and such. Basically his orders where to pick up the troops in Flanders, but they were taken too long to get organized in account of having to fight a rebellion there, so he just waited in open sea, until storms came and dispersed the fleet. Also South Americans in general don’t have a great opinion of Drake, because well, he liked a lot to attack civilians.

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