A student at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia started a petition this fall demanding that the name of Savannah native and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas be removed from a building on campus — and replaced with the name of his sexual harassment accuser, Anita Hill.
The petition received a few thousand signatures before a more successful petition to preserve Thomas’ name on the building began to circulate. That and other pushback received by petition creator Sage Lucero, including alleged threats against her, prompted her to cancel the petition.
Nevertheless, rumors that Thomas’ name might be removed from the building continued to spread.
Campus Reform decided to send Cabot Phillips to the campus to ask students about whether they support the effort to strip Thomas’ name from the building and why. Unsurprisingly, many of the college students agreed that Thomas’ name should be removed — one even compared Thomas to Adolf Hitler — but none could articulate a legitimate reason why.
“I honestly think he should be removed,” said a male student when asked about the petition.
A female student replied, “We should probably just take his name off the building, it’s not that big of a deal.”
Another female student said, “I agree it should get removed,” while a male student said of the petition, “I agree. I don’t think he represents the student body.”
Numerous other students also signaled their support for the petition to remove Thomas’ name from the building, but when pressed by Phillips for a specific reason why his name should be removed, few had any sort of logical response — if any response at all — and several simply displayed their utter ignorance of the honorable man.
Asked for a reason why Thomas’ name should be removed, the first male student replied, “Oh, ummm … hmmm, do you mind if I get back to you?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t done much research on this. I just saw a Facebook petition about it, and that’s kind of the extent of it,” a female student replied.
Then, Hitler’s name was invoked by the student who’d previously said Thomas didn’t represent the student body. “He is a historical figure, though … uh, so was Hitler,” as if that makes the two historical figures one and the same.
Phillips fired back and asked that student if there was any one thing he could point to that would disqualify Thomas from being honored, and the student replied, “I mean, not in particular.”
Other students similarly came up empty when pressed for a specific reason why the name should be removed, with some actually admitting they “don’t really know anything about him.”
One female student said, “This is such a liberal community and, um, to degrade that in any way is not really the SCAD way for things.” But Phillips shot back, “Isn’t the liberal viewpoint, though, like, open-mindedness and tolerance,” to which the student replied, “I guess, but I think that’s just a way to twist the concept of liberalism.”
All hope is not lost, though. There were several students who made it clear that they did not support the petition to remove Thomas’ name from the building. One student said, “No, I really wouldn’t sign that petition … simply because I feel that even though the student body might have its certain views and values, just because you don’t agree with somebody doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t honor them.”
Later in the brief video that same student said, “If someone doesn’t align with you, that doesn’t mean they are bad, it doesn’t mean they are wrong, it doesn’t mean you are right, it doesn’t mean that there’s anything you can’t come to terms with, as long as you do your own research and find the middle ground between you and that person.”
“I don’t think just because you disagree with someone’s politics, you should just, like, I guess dismiss their accomplishments,” another student said. Another student said she wouldn’t sign the petition, and added, “Just because if you hate someone, it doesn’t matter, it’s part of history and you can’t change the past.”
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