President Larry Dietz announced Illinois State University will rename floors in the Watterson Towers residence hall.
The renaming effort comes in the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd, and the subsequent removal of the names of those who supported or continued the system of slavery. “The path seeking social justice has circled back to the historical artifacts that continue to reflect our country’s pattern of intolerance and systemic racism,” said Dietz. “Over the past several months, America has re-examined many symbols of bigotry—statues, monuments, flags, plaques, and works of art—and has removed them in a mass demonstration of support for equality and social justice.”
Opened in 1968, Watterson Towers consists of 10 “houses.” The houses are named after the first 10 former U.S. Secretaries of States. Out of the 10 names, eight actively took part in the system of slavery.
“Asking students to live in places that carry the names of those who represent centuries of oppression and systemic injustice becomes part of the trauma that racism inflicts on people every day,” noted Interim Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion Doris Houston. “This change is a positive step toward reflecting our University’s core value of inclusion.”
The University Naming Committee is working toward new floor designations with changes scheduled to be in place in the fall. (See rooms that celebrate the University’s value of diversity and inclusion.) The process of change was underway by University Housing Services when a petition started from former Watterson Towers residential assistants asking for the houses to be renamed. “I am proud to see that we are moving in the same direction,” said Dietz. “Our students and alumni using their voice is a celebration of the University’s core values of diversity and inclusion, and civic engagement.”
Watterson Towers is one of the world’s tallest residence halls and is the tallest point between Chicago and St. Louis.