Bethany College has removed the name of former West Virginia U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd from its health center.
In a news release issued Wednesday by Bethany College President Tamara Rodenberg, she said the change was made to demonstrate the college’s “capacity to change, to listen, and to learn.”
Her statement read, in part: “Our lives are marked by decisions, by actions, and by grace, and today we embrace all three in a tangible, visible way at our beloved Bethany College.
“The last few weeks, and well before the conversations and calls for change took hold, we recognized as a campus that the name of our Robert C. Byrd Health Center created divisiveness and pain for members of Bethany community, both past and present.”
Rodenberg acknowledged that Byrd, a former member of the Klu Klux Klan, had become “synonymous with a capacity to change,” but the school still felt a change was necessary at this time.
“We respect the Byrd family name, but we can no longer let it represent how we lead in today’s world,” Rodenberg said in her statement. “We will honor our past, but we must propel the college into a new shared future. And, so, from this point forward, a new chapter begins on our campus, one informed by more diverse voices, one predicated on mutual respect and human value, and one that aims to unite through words, actions and hope.”
Last week, a petition began circulating online called “Stand in Solidarity with Black Students at Bethany College.” Immediate changes that the petition hoped to see made include the renaming of the wellness center on campus, access to security polices and the rules for searches, an emphasis on diversity, and mental health services for black students on campus.
In a statement in response to the petition, school officials said it is apparent that Bethany must do its part, do more, to play a positive role in changing the way the community thinks and acts when it comes to diversity.