Nearly two years ago I wrote about Vanderbilt University’s effort to erase, literally, a part of its past by removing the word “Confederate” from Confederate Memorial Hall, a building that had been constructed in the 1930s with the assistance of $50,000 donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. (See here and here.) At the time I noted that it was both odd and typical (and that that itself was odd) that Vanderbilt’s sandblasting away its own history was done in the name of “diversity.” As I wrote in the second of those old posts,
Whatever the justifications for such politically correct erasures may be (and I agreed there are some), enhancing “diversity” isn’t one of them. Such measures are aimed at producing uniformity, not diversity.
In May, the court ruled that Vanderbilt could not remove the chiseled name unless it reimbursed the UDC with today’s equivalent of the $50,000 the organization raised during the Great Depression for the dormitory, which was built in 1935.
Vanderbilt decided not to appeal, not to pay, and simply to leave the offensive word there and declare victory. In a spin that should win some chutzpah award, Michael J. Schoenfeld, a Vanderbilt spokesman, defended the university’s effort to create a more “welcoming environment.”
“We disagree with the legal matter, but the university has achieved what it set out to achieve — we have addressed a divisive issue on campus and brought attention to it,” Mr. Schoenfeld said. “We have addressed this very aggressively and very positively from the beginning, and we’re now going to use this as an educational opportunity.”
Mr. Schoenfeld did not explain why Vanderbilt thought it needed to bring attention to “a divisive issue on campus” — doesn’t being “divisive” mean an issue is already the subject of sufficient attention? — but university administrators around the country will no doubt be pleased to learn that universities can never really lose a lawsuit. All such apparent losses do is create a new “educational opportunity.”