As civil unrest erupts across the country in response to systemic racism, the students at Florida State have largely rallied to address symbols of racism on our own campus.
A former Florida State football player, Kendrick Scott, started a petition to rename the Doak Campbell Stadium. The stadium was named in 1950 after a former FSU President, Doak Campbell, who was a staunch segregationist. During his time, Campbell attempted to combat desegregation through preventing FSU students from speaking at Black community meetings and discouraging the FSU student newspaper from publishing pro-desegregation stories.
The petition reads, “the stadium at FSU was named after Doak Campbell, a former FSU President. While, the tradition has been preserved, in reflection, his non inclusive views of Blacks as a segregationist is divisive, therefore his name should be removed from a stadium that has been home to many Black football players helping to build the school and the tradition to what it has become today: a national treasure.”
The petition calls not just for the name of Doak Campbell to be removed, but also to rename it after former FSU football coach, Bobby Bowden. However, this suggestion comes with its own controversy. Former Coach Bowden and his wife work with conservative organization, Freedom Speaks, and advocate for policy against comprehensive sex education, Planned Parenthood, and queer inclusion. In 2019, Bowden spoke about these viewpoints at a conference whose focus was described as “protecting our kids from the dangers of the LGBTQ ideology.”
Among the calls to rename the stadium, is also the demand of the removal of a statue on campus of Frances Eppes, a former slave owner and a former Justice of the Peace in Tallahassee who hunted down escaped slaves. For the same reasons as the statue, students demand the renaming of FSU’s Eppes Hall building.
Spire Magazine spoke to Miles Feacher, a leading Black student voice in these efforts, about the fight to remove these names and statues from FSU’s campus.
“As a concerned student, I have worked on gathering the facts from President Thrasher’s 2018 Advisory Council regarding Eppes as well as looking at information regarding Doak Campbell,” said Feacher. “I am using the information I’ve found and shared it with other students via social media and used the hashtags #EppesHasToGo and #RenameDoak to demand response and accountability in the form of public pressure from Thrasher, the Student Body President, and the Board of Trustees.”
Miles Feacher refers to a recommendation made by John Thrasher’s Presidential Advisory Panel that previously advised the name of Eppes Hall and the statue be removed. However, President Thrasher refused the advice and instead relocated the statue 200 feet with a new marker indicating Eppes’ history as a slave owner.
Miles Feacher has also published an op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat advocating for the renaming of the stadium, which can be read here.
In addition to student voices, dozens of Black faculty members on FSU’s campus also penned an open letter expressing support for Black students and proposed changes for improving campus culture surrounding race.
There has yet to be an official decision made by FSU Administration in regards to the renaming of Doak Campbell Stadium and Eppes Hall and the removal of the Frances Eppes statue on our campus.