It could still be more than half a year before MTSU takes down the name of a controversial Confederate general on its ROTC Building. As of Friday, the school has approval from the Tennessee Board of Regents to change the name of Forrest Hall, but one state agency has to sign off before it's final.
At the heart of this long process is a debate over the legacy of Nathan Bedford Forrest — whether he should be remembered as a Civil War hero or a racist crusader.
MTSU president Sidney McPhee told the board of regents that he heard heated opinions on both sides during public forums. Ultimately, a school task force recommended to remove Forrest's name from the building.
"This is not an effort, ladies and gentleman, to change or erase history," McPhee said. "The only history that this will change is the notation on his Wikipedia page that there is a building at MTSU named for him."
McPhee also said this is the only thing on campus named for someone with no direct ties to the university. He wants it to be called, simply, the "ROTC Building."
The board approved the change without discussion, but the real hurdle lies ahead.
The state legislature passed a measure this year making it much more difficult to rename public property that honors historic military figures. MTSU now has to convince the Tennessee Historical Commission before it can remove Forrest's name from the building.
According to the new law, the commission must wait at least six months to make a decision, and any final change requires a two-thirds vote.