Professor starts petition to rename SCSU building after woman of color

- More than 1,200 people have signed a petition urging St. Cloud State University to name one of its campus buildings after the school’s first ever African America graduate, Ruby Cora Webster.

The petition, “Rename 51 Building as Webster Hall," was started by Christopher Lehman, a professor in the Department of Ethnic and Women’s Studies. 51 Building houses his department as the English and political science departments.

In 1909, Ruby Cora Webster became the first African American to graduate from SCSU. She went on to become one of the first African Americans to teach in St. Cloud. 

SCSU currently has no academic buildings named after people of color. The petition says renaming the building after Webster “would address SCSU’s commitment to diversity on at least a symbolic scale.”

The petition has already received 1,236 signatures. A recent post from Lehman says it is now up to the university to develop a policy for renaming its buildings. 

SCSU confirmed Wednesday it is currently “in the process of developing a non-philanthropic building naming policy this fall that has broad-based input from students, staff and community members as part of its preparations for the university’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2019.”

The university is required to follow the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities procedure for naming campus buildings. According to the procedure, the Minnesota State chancellor must sign off on any name change.

SCSU statement

St. Cloud State University welcomes efforts like Professor Lehman’s that seek to commemorate the history and contributions of students like Ruby Cora Webster.

The university is now in the process of developing a non-philanthropic building naming policy this fall that has broad-based input from students, staff and community members as part of its preparations for the university’s Sesquicentennial celebration in 2019. When official recommendations for naming of buildings, sites or common areas are made, Interim President Ashish Vaidya will follow this policy to make recommendations to Minnesota State.

Naming buildings at St. Cloud State is governed by Minnesota State board procedure 6.8.1. The recommendation of the university president must be sent to the chancellor for approval.

St. Cloud State’s School of Education previously recognized Webster in 2016 as one of the first two alumna honored by the School of Education’s newly established Hall of Fame.

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