In Desire to Grow, Colleges in South Battle With Roots
Southern universities often find themselves struggling to temper Confederate imagery without alienating alumni and donors.
SEWANEE, Tenn. - The flags from Southern states disappeared from the chapel. The ceremonial baton dedicated to a Confederate general who helped found the Ku Klux Klan vanished. The very name of the University of the South was tweaked, becoming Sewanee: The University of the South, with decided emphasis on Sewanee.
It all seemed eminently sensible to university administrators looking to appeal beyond the privileged white children of the South, who have long been the university's base, and become a more national, selective and racially diverse university.
But the changes have sparked a passionate debate among alumni, many of whom view them as a betrayal of their history.
Some traditionalists say they fear that the name of the university's guest house, Rebel's Rest, will be next to go and that a monument donated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy commemorating Edmund Kirby-Smith, a Confederate general who taught at the university for nearly 20 years, will be removed.
"I think they ought to leave it the way it is," said Dr. David W. Aiken, an alumnus who is an orthopedic surgeon in Metairie, La. "I wouldn't be for changing anything. I think they're doing quite well. What is the purpose of making it a more national school? Do I want kids from California, New York coming there? Not really."
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