Faculty Petition Creates Momentum: The Push to Rename Slocum Hall

In 1917, after bringing President William Slocum’s behavior towards women to the attention of the Board of Trustees, Dean Edward Parsons was pushed out of Colorado College for overstepping his boundaries. The information provided by Parsons would go on to prompt Slocum’s resignation. Twenty-two faculty and staff members resigned in outrage alongside Parsons. In wake of archivist Jessy Randall’s findings on President Slocum’s serial sexual harassment, that outrage has been reignited.

Photo by Daniel Sarché

Following the most recent publication of The Catalyst that included Randall’s findings, the most recent all-college faculty meeting included discussion on the process of renaming the building. To Randall, who was present, it “sounded like the renaming the building will probably happen, but of course it’s unclear what the new name will be.”

The information also received acknowledgment from President Tiefenthaler who included the  following in a recent blog post: “With the national attention on sexual harassment in light of the Weinstein and other prominent cases, there has been increasing interest in former CC President William F. Slocum’s actions over a century ago…The findings are highlighted in recent articles in The Catalyst and The Chronicle of Higher Education.” The information has prompted calls from some in the CC community for the renaming of Slocum Hall.

“The Board of Trustees has sole authority for naming buildings and bestowing college honors, as well as the authority to remove such honors. At their meeting two weeks ago, the board appointed a trustee committee to recommend a process for the consideration of the removal of honorary designations (named buildings, honorary degrees, etc.). The process will be proposed to the full board for approval and once approved, the campus will be informed. With a process in place, the board can carefully consider this matter,” continued Tiefenthaler in the blog.

Tiefenthaler also alluded to the fact that articles had been written in the past about Slocum’s behavior towards women, however Randall’s detailed findings had been particularly jarring because of their specificity.

Following the meeting, Randall and Associate Professor Gail Murphy-Geiss drafted a petition that the faculty is currently circulating, which reads as follows: “Because President Slocum’s behavior was offensive in his day, as well as ours, we request that his name be removed from Slocum Residence Hall, and the process be initiated for the selection of a new name. We believe that a building named after such a figure compromises the reputation of the college. We also request that his portrait be removed from the main stairwell in Palmer Hall.”

The college’s naming policy states: “In unusual or unforeseen circumstances, the College reserves the right to remove a previously approved name. The President of the College will bring forth the recommendation for approval by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. Examples of such situations include, but are not limited to: […] Continuation of the name may compromise the public trust or reputation of the College.” The full board meets in February and will then discuss changing the name of the dorm.

According to a survey of students via social media, students are mostly in favor of removal of the name. When asked if they would be likely to initiate or support the renaming of Slocum hall, 96 percent of the respondents answered yes. When asked if they believe systematic patterns of sexual assault and harassment warrant renaming of a building named after the alleged assailant, 97 percent of the respondents answered yes.

Many colleges nationwide have been changing building names and removing statues denoting racist histories, however very few have publicly announced name removal from buildings or statues that honor known sexual assailants. St. Olaf College in Minnesota is one of the only other colleges making headlines for renaming a building in wake of sexual misconduct.

Slocum Hall was built in 1953-1954 and therefore named long after Slocum had been cast out of the CC community. Housing was not available for an interview to comment on who was in charge of the 1996 renovation and if they were aware of the history behind the name.

Professor Owen Cramer, however, stated that he heard about the case sometime in the late 1960s through a professor in the history department researching the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) inquiry. Cramer commented that this information had been in circulation for 50 years and mentioned fairly frequently “but the only concrete result I can think of came sometime in the late 1980s when the NSO book was Sissela Bok’s “Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life” and I was, by chance, assigned the Slocum lounge as venue for my discussion with the new students.”

“I had never until then noticed the framed copy of a Trustees resolution from the end of Slocum’s presidency that then hung over the fireplace in the lounge: it contained effusive thanks for his faithful service to the college, and I made an example of it for the discussants – Colorado College officially lying about its CEO, including celebrating him in this way in a building named for him. I never saw that document again, and assume that Pres. Worner’s office repossessed the framed copy after word of that session got back – though I didn’t actually go and tell Lew Worner to do it.”

“Overall, it seems only a few leaders in the faculty were fired for, more or less, exposing Slocum.  And then about half the faculty resigned or retired because they were disgusted with trustee’s attempts to cover up things.  So what it appears very likely Slocum did was pretty well-know at the time, and contested.  Later, it was vaguely recounted in some histories of the College, and whitewashed in others, including the most recent official one…Given how problematic the trustees were back in Slocum’s time, one would hope that their present-day descendants might want to distinguish themselves by acting very differently!  But it is entirely their call, in the end,” said Professor Dennis McEnnerney.

The next step after name removal is finding a new name. Randall has compiled a list from suggestions by many professors across campus. Randall herself said “If I were in charge of renaming the dormitory, my top three names would be Maude Bard, Mary Chenoweth, and Effie Stroud, in no particular order. There are so many good choices, though — it will be hard to decide!”

Professor Susan Ashley hadn’t heard of any previous renaming effort for the hall nor did she know of Slocum’s lecherous side. However, she suggested Sallie Payne Morgan and Edith Bramhall as possible new names saying, “Both women had an outsized influence on the college’s life. Fearless, outspoken, principled, and magnetic, they stood out in what seems to have been a male-dominated place.”

Bramhall held several “firsts” among many other scholarly distinctions including, “First female recipient of a Ph.D. in history at the University of Pennsylvania, first female professor with a doctorate who made a career at CC, and first woman elected to the Colorado Springs City Council.”

Sallie Payne Morgan was another venerated woman in college history. “She came to CC as Assistant Dean of Women in 1949 and became Dean of Women in 1950. She retired in 1957, went back to Mississippi (home, I think), and sickened (literally) by the treatment of blacks there, she came back to CC and served part time as a book checker (the library hired someone to see that people had checked out the books) until 1976. That position gave her the chance to befriend a lot of students and faculty. As Dean of Women, she worked to relax the many social restrictions on women students.”

Both Professor Tip Ragan and Professor Dennis McEnnerney suggested Jane Cauvel as a worthy character to name the hall after. Ragan had first heard of the scandal from the links Randall had sent on the FGS listerv, and “was taken aback”. In response to why he suggested Cauvel, Ragan said “She was one of the only women on the faculty for a long time.  She was in philosophy and helped found Asian Studies.  She was a huge supporter of women across the campus.  She is one of the most humane people there is.”

McEnnerney continued “She was one of most influential, pioneering women faculty members at the College.  While there have been a few female faculty members from the beginning of the College, Jane may well have been one of the first to be widely influential.” Cauvel introduced East Asian studies into the a predominantly western curriculum, as well as a Women’s Studies program.

Cauvel’s mark on philosophy can still be seen today as she has expanded the curriculum past western origin, and was one of the earliest women in the field nationwide. She was a strong force in diversifying all three of these academic disciplines as well as other academic distinctions such as serving as the college’s Ombudsperson in her retirement.

“She was a real pioneer, she helped to put the College on a path toward all kinds of diversity long before most people gave diversity a second thought, and that the legacy of her work remains important today” are all compelling reasons to have a hall named in her honor said McEnnerney.

The full list, courtesy of Randall, includes the aforementioned names in addition to other notable female alumni including the college’s current President Jill Tiefenthaler, Kathryn Mohrman, first female President of the college, as well as many other venerated female alumni.

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