What’s in a name?
A name can represent many things from history and values to one’s humanity. But it can also be a reminder of a dark past. This is the case with Murray Hall at Oklahoma State University.
On Friday, the OSU board of regents will meet and vote on whether to remove the name “Murray” from both Murray Hall and North Murray Hall due to William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray-- the building’s namesake and ninth governor of Oklahoma-- having a record of advocacy for racist policies including segregation and the promotion of Jim Crow laws.
But with the two buildings potentially being nameless soon, whose name should replace them?
OSU students and alumni weighed in on this in a recent O’Colly poll.
“Nancy Randolph Davis because that name would have racist Murray rolling over in his grave,” OSU alumnus Dontay Allen said on Facebook.
In a survey of over 1,000 people, Davis won the poll by more than 6%. In 1949, enrolled at what was then Oklahoma A&M college, making her the first African-American enrollee at OSU. If Davis’ name were to be put on the building, it would be on the same street as her statue, which is located at the Human Sciences building.
While Davis finished first in the poll, she wasn’t the only prominent OSU graduate to garner votes. Since there are multiple decisions to be made, the team making the decision on the name will have two people to honor.
The name that came in second place in the poll was late OSU mega booster T. Boone Pickens, who contributed over $1 billion to the university. But as some pointed out, Pickens already has his name on the largest building on campus.
“(Nancy Randolph) Davis or (Nam) Duck-woo,” Twitter user Ryan Steelman said. “Pickens already has a building, and a big one at that. For the love of all that is good and holy, not an entertainer or athlete. Though (Gary) Busey Hall would be hilarious.”
Duck-woo, who received his PHD from OSU in 1961, came in third place in the poll. His prominence as the 12th prime minister of South Korea and loyalty to his school could be a reason for his high finish.
But some people didn’t agree with Steelman’s sentiment of not honoring OSU athletic figures. In fact, a majority of user submissions were names of famous athletes or coaches affiliated with the school.
Eddie Sutton Hall was the most popular suggestion, but Barry Sanders Hall, Dez Bryant Hall, Marcus Smart Hall and many others dominated the Facebook comments as they all did in their respective sports.
The vote to change Murray Hall’s name has resonated with the board of regents. In a statement released on Wednesday, Chairman Tucker Link said the board “fully intend” to remove the name. While some responders to the poll were happy to think of new ideas for the building, others believe that they shouldn’t remove the name at all.
“There should be no change,” said Gay Lei Ferguson on Facebook. “Leave History alone, it cannot be changed but the future can hold promise and hope for something better. But if there has to be a different name it could be named Scissor-tail after our state bird. That way there will be no conflict.”
“Snowflake Hall,” said Joe Carter.
“It shouldn’t be changed. This is stupid!” said Landon Jones.
Upon Jones suggesting this, OSU student Delia Gonzalez quickly responded with a message that explained why the name change is being considered in the first place.
“What’s stupid is naming a building after an extreme racist who opposed the basic equal human rights to black people which is exactly what Murray did and was,” Gonzalez said. “Just because he was governor of our state does not mean he should be celebrated and rewarded. It’s time to stop putting up with racist historical figures all over our country when there are plenty of historical figures who weren’t racist and have a reason to be celebrated. So no, it’s not ‘stupid.’”