That awkward moment when a man who lived during the Depression finds himself involved in an intense racial justice debate during the 21st century? That’s what has happened to a former leader from Lebanon Valley College whose last name just happened to be “Lynch.”
The long-ago-deceased Dr. Clyde A. Lynch has somehow managed to offend an entire roster of students, who are citing racism as their cause. Although the former college president, who served from 1932 until he died in 1950, had no associations with racism, students from the college are demanding that “The Lynch Building,” or “Lynch Memorial Hall,” be renamed. They claim is that that meaning of the word “lynch” has racial overtones that offend many of the students who attend the school.
The request is that the school officials either completely rename the building or add the first name and middle initial of Dr. Lynch to the building’s name.
According to Dictionary.com, the word “lynch” means, “To put to death, especially by hanging, by mob action and without legal authority.” The students of Lebanon Valley College feel that the word represents the various public executions of their African-American ancestors performed by mobs of Caucasians during the 1800s and 1900s, according to NBC Philadelphia.
The New York Post, however, explains that former President Lynch was a major part of the school’s developmental history who helped lead the college through the Great Depression.
The Daily Beast also feels that the who thing is ridiculous. Calling it “The dumbest college renaming debate yet,” Emily Shire of the Beast states:
“Even if you think buildings should be renamed because of historical figures’ racism, what about a building dedicated to an admirable man whose name just happens also to be a despicable act?”
There are many similar debates taking place in America right now. Shire goes on to say:
“There is the proposal to rename Amherst College’s Lord Jeff (unofficial) mascot for Lord Jeffery Amherst’s role in spreading smallpox to Native Americans, Yale’s Calhoun College because politician John Calhoun was a staunch supporter of slavery, and even the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University because Wilson is now seen as a racist. But the latest renaming controversy at Pennsylvania’s Lebanon Valley College has a special ring of absurdity to it.”
Not only was Lynch the president of the college for some time, but he was also a strong leader during World War II, through the Great Depression, and helped refugees to settle in America after the war. The college obituary for him shares that he was the:
“chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Displaced Persons and as the national chairman of the Commission on the Resettlement of Displaced Persons with Professional Skills to ‘rende[r] exceptional service to suffering humanity.’”
Marty Parks, who is the college’s executive director of marketing and communications, feels that is is not about the man’s name or the word when used as a noun; instead, it is about the word as a verb that makes students feel uncomfortable.
The demand to change the name of the building is just one of a list of fifteen changes that the students have presented to school officials. Among those demands, the students are asking for updated curriculum that is more friendly to various gender identities and the disabled.