Staff member proposes names

To the Editors:

A tour of the Oberlin College campus reveals buildings named in honor of individuals who donated money toward construction (Carnegie, Severance, Peters, Warner, Talcott, Baldwin, Tank, Noah), buildings named in honor of former presidents (Fairchild, Barrows, King, Bosworth, Stevenson), buildings named for former residents of the buildings (Johnson, Old Barrows, Allencroft) and even buildings named in honor of former presidents who were former residents of buildings demolished to make way for new construction (Finney, Keep). While a few campus buildings are named for women or minorities, most are named for white men. For an institution that prides itself on graduating some of the first women and African-American college students in the U.S., it is unsettling that even those closely associated with Oberlin College could not name these pioneers. With the Housing & Dining Committee contest to rename the Firelands building, we have an opportunity to add one or more of these names to campus culture.
I propose the Firelands building be renamed Patterson Tower, in honor of Mary Jane Patterson, who upon graduating in 1862, became the first African-American woman in the U.S. to receive a baccalaureate degree. I propose the Firelands building be renamed Stone Terrace, in honor of Lucy Stone, an 1847 graduate who toured the country speaking against slavery. Also a pioneer in the movement for women’s rights, she was an organizer of the first national women’s rights convention (she also retained her maiden name upon marrying — in 1855).
I propose the Firelands building be renamed Cooper Apartments, in honor of Anna Julia Cooper, an 1884 graduate and the fourth American woman to earn a doctorate in the U.S. She was outspoken on issues of racism, the status of black women, and the failure of educational systems to recognize the needs of female and Black students. I propose the Firelands building be renamed Coppin Suites, in honor of Fannie Jackson Coppin, an 1865 graduate. As the Civil War drew to a close, she established a night school in Oberlin to educate freed slaves. A staunch defender of the rights of women and blacks, she also founded homes for working and poor women. I encourage all community members to take the contest seriously by nominating one of our many pioneering alumni (most of whom are not listed here). What a shame it would be for the newest housing addition to end up with a silly name like “Park Overlook Gardens.” If we must use “garden,” I propose Weed Gardens, in honor of Zeruiah Porter Weed, who became the first woman graduate of Oberlin College in 1838.

—Ryan Forsythe
College staff

May 2
May 9

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