The Auburn University Board of Trustees has voted to remove the last name of David Bibb Graves, Alabama's 38th governor, from facilities on its main Auburn campus. The motion was approved at the latest board meeting on Friday, Nov. 20. Trustees unanimously approved the action.
The last name will be stripped from Graves Amphitheatre and Graves Drive, a small road which passes by the venue toward Dudley Hall, which contains the University's College of Architecture, Design and Construction.
Graves' name sparked controversy in June after a petition received just over 2,000 signatures requesting it be removed following racial reckoning across the country this summer.
Graves received a secret endorsement from the Ku Klux Klan in 1922 and is said to have been the Exalted Cyclops, or president, of its Montgomery, Alabama chapter. He held office from 1927-1931 and 1935-1939 and was the first Alabama governor to serve two four-year terms.
The action came after Wayne Smith, president pro tempore of the board of trustees, appointed a task force to evaluate structures and monuments on University property to "improve diversity and inclusion at Auburn University" according to trustee James Pratt, a co-chair of the task force.
Trustee Elizabeth Huntley, a co-chair of the task force, said removing a name on a structure or building should be an "exceptional event."
"Retaining Gov. Graves' name on the amphitheatre and drive would chill rather than encourage the broad use of facilities that are intended to be enjoyed for engagement of the campus community," Huntley said.
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The amphitheatre and road have not received new names, and it is unknown when they will be renamed or rededicated. Graves Hall, a Hill residence hall named after the governor's wife, Dixie, was not mentioned in the meeting and it is unknown if the building is also being considered by the task force.
Auburn's removal of Graves' name follows in the footsteps of Alabama State University in Montgomery, Alabama, which removed a dedication to Graves from one of its residence halls on Oct. 14.
Trustees were authorized to remove the dedications by means of a building name removal policy which they approved at the same Nov. 20 meeting.
"We began by trying to formulate an appropriate policy with the goal of ensuring the University's physical environment supports the University's values and is consistent with Auburn's mission to improve the lives of the people of Alabama, the nation and the world," Pratt said. "[Through] surveying policies across the country from universities facing similar problems, we incorporated that with our own thoughts that best fit Auburn to try to develop a policy to guide us and to help us ensure consistency and transparency."
The new policy will allow trustees to remove dedications in the future for any University owned or controlled structures, according to Pratt. The policy was also approved unanimously approved by the trustees.
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