Thursday, January 25, 2007
Great Money, Bad Legacy
Fmr. U.S. Sen. George Smathers, like any man that reaches such a level of power, was without a doubt a very interesting person and in his later years, very generous to our university. He served in the U.S. Congress during a very difficult era in our nation's history, when segregation was the rule of the land and the policy by which the entire nation (not merely the South) was run. However, when the civil rights movement began to grow and gain momentum, several leaders as well as every day white and black citizens had a decision before them, 'were we truly living separate but equal' - and - 'was the state of segregation constitutional, was it moral?'
National leaders like Senators Smathers & Byrd along with state leaders such as Eugene "Bull" Connor and George Wallace, in addition to countless other Dixiecrats stood in the way of movement of King, Meredith, Parks, X. Later in their lives, many of them changed their ways but others remained bitter till the end. Arguments have been made that many segregationalists pushed this line to hold onto their jobs, but maintaining an immoral status quo remains immoral despite its popularity.
While I'm not sure what the failed senate resoution read like, I'm glad that the UF Senate voted it down. Aside from the $20 million that Mr. Smathers donated to UF, no one would be discussing a resolution for him in chambers. I am very uneasy with live donors having buildings named after themselves, because it sends the wrong message. Buildings should be named after great academic or community figures, you go to a building at a university and you read these names and your gut instinct is that these wonderfully built complexes were named after great war heroes or genius mathematicians or great philosophers but whoever they are, you normally mourn them because you think they've probably been dead for hundreds of years. But in many cases the namesake might be a person that held up progress, hampered the late great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who dropped a fat check over at Tigret Hall and is washing down a BLT with an ice cold Blue Moon over at Swamp with his feet rested on a chair...you'd never think that.
The Senate did its job. Certain pieces of legislation, such as resolutions honoring the deceased are often touching (but to seasoned members of the Branch, they are often considered a waste of the Student's resources unofficially, but part of the symbolic aspect of student governance). Still, even symbolic gestures have certain guidelines and I applaud the Senate for taking even its symbolic responsibilites seriously.