Demand to Remove Eppes and B.K. Roberts' Recognitions
Updated: Jul 2
Author: Patrick Martin
Edited by Chance Preshia
The Torchlight Campus Policy Center is establishing a database of controversial namings within our network of campus think tanks. At FSU, we acknowledge the calls to rename Eppes Hall, Doak Campbell Stadium, B.K. Roberts Hall, and remove the Francis Eppes Statue. There has been an outpouring of support for the removal of the statues, and the renaming of buildings associated with those who perpetuated racism, oppression, and slavery. We are tracking the student groups that call for these removals/renamings, and the response of the Student Government Association, the University, and the Florida Legislature.
Torchlight publicly endorses and demands the implementation of the recommendations of the President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions and multiple student groups:
Removing Fancis Eppes’ name from the Criminology building,
Removing Francis Eppes’ statue and have it curated in a historically accurate manner,
Renaming B.K. Roberts Hall.
The name of Doak Campbell on the stadium should be examined by the same or a similar Panel and Torchlight will then gauge its recommendations.
Torchlight is not a historically-based think tank. However, it does not have to be one in order to endorse the findings of the Panel and recognize the calls for a similar investigation into the name of Doak Campbell Stadium.
We are maintaining a map of University namings and recognitions currently under srutiny and debate within our network of campus-based think tanks:
Francis Eppes Hall and Statue
Naming and statue established in 2000 and 2002.
Eppes’ history as slave owner came to light in 2017.
The President's Panel advised in 2018 that both the name and statue be removed.
President Thrasher moved the statue a short distance yet retained the name.
Student advocacy now calls for the removal of both.
The statue of Francis Eppes was unveiled in 2002 at Westcott Plaza, with a marker next to it describing Eppes as “Grandson of Thomas Jefferson, Founder of Florida State University.” The building directly north of the statue was named Eppes Hall in 2000, then home of the Psychology Department and now home of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
In 2017, information about Eppes’ history came to light, when historical records showed that Eppes owned slaves at both of his Florida plantations and served as Justice of the Peace in Tallahassee, a law enforcement position which included patrolling for and capturing escaped slaves.
This recognition as a “founder” was later found as an overstatement by the President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions, established in 2017, as a response to student rejection of the statue and name, which found that Eppes did not establish the Seminary that evolved into FSU but advocated for its establishment, offering a building, $10,000 in cash, and an endowment. The former FSU President who had authorized the statue, Sandy D’Alemberte, addressed the Panel and conceded that Eppes’ indication as the “founder” was inaccurate. The Panel decided that Eppes should be recognized in a way that is an accurate representation of his contributions.
The Advisory Panel operated with an established “strong bias toward maintaining a naming or recognition,” saying that “Renaming and/or removal of recognition should only be considered in exceptional circumstances.” They found that Eppes’ name should be removed from the Criminology building and the statue removed and replaced with an accurate recognition of the University’s founders, the participation of slavery in the construction of the University, and the Seminole Tribe or other First Nation people.
President Thrasher rejected the Panel’s recommendation of removing Eppes’ name from the Criminology building, citing Eppes’ “significant contributions to FSU.” He opted to retain the Eppes Hall name and include a marker indicating Eppes was a slave owner who oversaw the capture of escaped slaves “as a justice of the peace.”
President Thrasher stated that he accepted the Panel’s recommendation that the statue be removed from the Westcott plaza, and relocated it about 200 feet away, on the West side instead of the South side of the Criminology building. It can be debated whether this is in line with the Panel’s recommendation that this is satisfactory of the Panel’s recommendation that it is “removed and curated in a historically accurate manner.”
Now, several student groups have advocated for the removal of the Eppes statue and name after FSU student leader Miles Feacher brought the Advisory Panel's recommendations to light. Arguing to remove the name is the exact, rejected request of the President’s Advisory Panel. The Torchlight Campus Policy Center stands in solidarity with the multiple student groups and student leaders, listed below, calling for the removal of the B.K. Roberts’ name and Eppes name and statue. Arguing to remove the statue is a revitalized request of the Advisory Panel, as multiple student groups feel that President Thrasher’s actions are not fully in line with the Panel’s request, and may feel that the appropriate site may be a museum or archive setting.
B.K. Roberts Hall
Naming of B.K. Roberts Hall established in 1973 by FL Legislature
Advisory panel decided the name should be removed in 2018
President Thrasher recommended to the state legislature that the name should be removed, still remains today
In 1973, the Florida Legislature named FSU’s Law School building “B.K. Roberts Hall” in Chapter 73-370 of Florida Law.
B.K. Roberts was a Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court whose name was assigned to the College of Law’s main building due to his “significant contributions to the legal system as a whole” and being “instrumental in the creation of the College of Law.” However, he was a staunch segregationist who defied the U.S. Supreme Court to deny admission to a prospective law student because that student was Black. The Panel found that his name should be removed from the building.
President Thrasher, in his response statement, stated he would ask the legislature to repeal Chapter 73-370 to formally remove B.K. Roberts’ name from the building. It remains today, but Student Body President Jonathan Levin is optimistic that the Florida Legislature, the sole body that can remove the name, will remove it in the next year.
Doak Campbell Stadium
Doak Campbell Stadium named in 1950
President Thrasher directed the Athletic Director to investigate the naming and provide recommendations in 2020
Doak Campbell Stadium was named such in 1950, in honor of Doak S. Campbell, the University’s President from 1941 to 1957. He is largely credited with the early growth of FSU’s sports programs, but he was a segregationist into the late 1950s. This Tampa Morning Tribune article in FSU’s digital historical repository details his segregationist views and actions as President of FSU. A simple reading of this document shows that Campbell aimed to stifle desegregation by preventing FSU students from attending and speaking at Black community meetings. He also sought to stop the FSU Student Newspaper from running pro-desegregation articles.
Faculty member Norman Anderson
Faculty member Karen Bearor
Seminole Tribe Member & Alumni Kyle Doney
Student Lane Forsman
Staff & student Miguel Hernandez
Student Body President Kyle Hill
Chief compliance and ethics officer Robyn Jackson
History professor Maxine Jones
BSU President Andrew Melville
Professor Maxine Montgomery
Retired professor emeritus Walter Moore
Student Chris Pinango
Alumni Janet Stoner
Alumni Allisson Yu
This is a list of groups that have called for the removal of the Eppes statue, renaming of Eppes Hall, and/or the renaming of Doak Campbell Stadium, current as of 6/29/2020. The list was compiled by FSU Student Emery Lowden.
QTPOC @ FSU
ThetaEtaNupes of FSU
30in60 Sketch Comedy
https://twitter.com/MadisonSocial/status/1276137796277846017?s=20 (they also linked a podcast with more information in this tweet)
The Eggplant FSU
Professor Davis Houck
FSU Alumnus and current Homecoming Chief Caleb M Dawkins
FSU for Palestine
Tallahassee Community Action Committee
FSU Coalition of Black Student Leaders