Clements thankful that Deshaun Watson and Nuk Hopkins weighed in on name change


by - Senior Writer -
Clements thankful that Deshaun Watson and Nuk Hopkins weighed in on name change

CLEMSON – The decision to take John C. Calhoun’s name off the Honors College and to ask the state’s general assembly to allow the university to take the Tillman name off of the Old Main building was not taken lightly by the school’s Board of Trustees, and the wheels were set in motion back in 2018 with a vote set for July of 2020.

The vote by the Board of Trustees was expedited by recent events, however, according to President Jim Clements.

“This was an important day for Clemson - a historic day for Clemson. I'm really proud of our Board of Trustees and the incredible leadership they have shown,” Clements said on a Friday Zoom call with he media. “Today the Board made a very clear statement about our values. In my discussions with the Board since I've been at Clemson, it's all about values, the Clemson family, respect, inclusion, diversity and today was a statement about values. In 2015, the Board of Trustees created a history task force to fully tell our history and our complete history. We've made a lot of progress since then, put up markers, update the bios of our founders and today was a significant step related to values, inclusion, and making sure everyone at Clemson feels welcome and as a part of the Clemson family. Really a big day.”

In 2018, the Board asked Provost Robert Jones to lead a task force to study and make recommendations on ways to enhance the quality and relevance of the honors college. The Board approved the recommendations from the Provost, endorsed by Clements, which include setting the goal of becoming a nationally ranked, top-tier honors college; creating a dean position to oversee the college; creating a strategic plan for the college; and renaming the college to Clemson University Honors College.

“Thankful for my Board and their step forward. Let me start with the Calhoun first. When I first got here and hired Provost Jones, I asked him how are we going to elevate the honors college to the highest level,” Clements said. “The Board very clearly asked the Provost to do that so we set up a task force in 2018 to look at ways to elevate the profile of the honors college. Some very clear recommendations came out. It would have been on the agenda for this July for the Board to discuss. I'm thankful for all of those who have exercised their right to speak and to share their views. I've received lots of emails, lots of calls, lots of text.

“Our faculty, staff, and students have spoken very, very clearly and I'm very thankful for that. I've spoken many times with our student body president in the past about this. There have been lots of discussions that have taken place and I'm thankful for all of the incredible input and care that our Clemson family shows. First, the Board did make it very clear that this is the one and only exception that they are seeking from the Heritage Act. I know on the campus there is Calhoun Courts residence hall but that's named after a different Calhoun (athlete Pat Calhoun). There is the Calhoun Mansion, which is the Fort Hill Mansion that is on the historic registry. The Board made it very clear with the decision on Tillman Hall that it is the one exception.”

The Board also adopted a resolution respectfully requesting the South Carolina General Assembly make a one-time exception to the state’s Heritage Act during the 2021 legislative session. This exception would give limited authority to the Board to restore Tillman Hall to its original name of the Main Building. The resolution further affirms that the Board will not be seeking any further exceptions from the Heritage Act beyond this request.

Former Clemson football players DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson retweeted a petition started by Clemson student Roann Abdeladl that demanded the removal of Calhoun’s name. However, Clements stated that those opinions had very little to do with Friday’s decision.

“I think the world of DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson. Deshaun and I actually started at Clemson together and we became incredibly close,” Clements said. “We still stay in contact on a regular basis and I think the world of those two fine men and I am thankful that they weighed in and I am proud of them. But this effort started in 2018 and was prepared to be on the board agenda this summer. What really expedited it for the board was watching the horrific death of George Floyd and all pain and frustration around the country. I am thankful for Deshaun and his platform and I told him that. They have a very powerful platform.”

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