The troubling trend of renaming buildings on university campuses has infected the world of college sports. In November, the University of Maryland Board of Regents voted to rename Byrd Stadium, the home field of the U. of M. football team, to the simple moniker Maryland Stadium. The Board voted 12-5 in favor of the measure after student-led protests to rename the stadium began early in 2015.
In response, university President Loh formed the Byrd Stadium Naming Work Group in September. The committee was chaired by Bonnie Thornton Dill, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, and comprised of 19 faculty, staff, students, and alumni. According to a statement on the University of Maryland's website, the committee "represented the diversity of opinions within UMD's campus community." The group was asked to provide Loh with a "thoughtful and balanced assessment" of options.
In the end, Loh and the committee decided it was time to move on, voting to remove Byrd's name from the 54,000 seat stadium. "Continuing the Byrd Stadium name divides us at a time when we need unity more than ever. We must accept the full truth of our past and the possibilities of our future," said University of Maryland President Loh.
For 90 years the stadium was named in honor of Harry Clifton "Curley" Byrd, a former football head coach, athletic director and university president at Maryland. Byrd was also a segregationist who sought to bar black students from attending the University of Maryland. After resigning from the presidency in 1954, Byrd ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland, campaigning on the stance of "separate but equal."
"For some African-Americans and other people of color, the name ‘Byrd Stadium' conveys a racial message hidden in plain sight," Loh said in a letter written to the board. "Yet, we know that these dramatic changes have not eliminated racial tensions. Today's progress cannot fully undo memories of yesterday's wrongs."
The movement to rename the stadium began in the early spring and gained momentum throughout the year. The issue was first raised by Maryland student Colin Byrd, no relation to the former university president, began circulating a petition and collecting signatures in March. Byrd, an African-American senior studying sociology, spoke to university board members on the issue, pointing out that a majority of athletes on the Terrapin football team are black and that they "should not have to do so within the symbolic shadows of someone who would have hated you," as reported in an article in the Washington Post.
"I think today is a watershed moment for the University of Maryland," said Byrd, "I think we're moving towards making sure we don't honor individuals who conflict with our current commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion."
The renaming of Byrd Stadium comes at a time when student protests around the nation are on the rise. At Princeton, for instance, students are demanding the university's leadership change the name of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Wilson was a former president of Princeton and won election as the Democrat Party's nominee as the 28th President of the United States. History has also proved Wilson to hold racist and anti-civil rights views during his presidency.
Regarding the University of Maryland issue, Governor Larry Hogan worries that the current madness for politically correct revenge is unhealthy and destructive. While he did recall the state's Confederate flat-themed license plate, Hogan told the Post that at, some point, young Americans have to learn to deal with their past rather than seeking to erase and replace it. "Where do we draw the line?" Hogan asked. "Some of this history is our history. We hear people saying we should dig up the Confederate cemeteries in Maryland."
What do you think? Should the University of Maryland Board of Regents have voted to rename the facility or should they have kept the name Byrd Stadium in place?