Washtenaw Community College President Rose Bellanca has weighed in on the potential renaming of the Student Center to MLK Hall. And for those supporting the movement, it’s not what they wanted to hear.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a possibility for the whole center to be named because policy is at the college that we name buildings after a person who is strictly affiliated with this campus,” she said. “I realize this was 40 years ago, but a lot changes in that time.”
Last winter, documents uncovered by The Voice found that a plan may have been in place to name the SC building at the permanent campus of WCC after the Civil Rights leader.
WCC student Ryan Hunter read the documents and started working on a petition to present to the college’s board of trustees. Hunter has gathered nearly 1,500 signatures and has also met with Bellanca to discuss the issue. However, news of Bellanca’s stance on the issue was not what he had hoped.
Hunter remains optimistic, though, that a change can still be made.
“I’m excited that President Bellanca is more open to the idea than her predecessor. Now let’s continue the dialogue,” Hunter said. “We’ve made more progress in the last month than we did last semester.”
BOT Chair Pam Horiszny doesn’t take naming of buildings on campus very lightly, either.
“I will say that naming any building is not a slam-dunk in terms of whether we do it or not,” Horiszny said. “There will be a lot of discussion among the trustees about doing this and whether or not it’s the appropriate way.”
Hunter expects that naming buildings is serious to officials, but feels that the college has changed its stance in light of the recent dedications to former President Larry Whitworth and former Trustee Henry Landau.
“Obviously they’ve revisited their position on naming buildings,” Hunter said. “If the issue drops again, it might be another 40 years before it gets picked up again.”
David Rutledge, a former trustee at WCC serving as Democratic state representative for the 54th District in the state House of Representatives, encourages the efforts made by the students in getting the building renamed.
“I applaud the student(s) efforts and when they complete their research, they should present it to the board,” Rutledge said.
While Bellanca isn’t completely against the renaming, she thinks that a compromise can be reached that could satisfy all parties. Bellanca thinks a portion, a room or a wing of the building would be more appropriate.
“I would have to get permission from the board, but rather than say no to the entire idea, I’d rather say, ‘What else can we do?’” she said. “I’d like to work out a compromise with the students.”
And while Hunter is open to a compromise, he doesn’t want to ignore the intentions of former college board members.
“Absolutely, compromises happen,” he said, “but let’s not forget what was supposed to happen 40 years ago. I see this as tying up the work that started 43 years ago.”