We recently saw the decision at Harvard (followed by Yale) to drop the historic title of “Master” for the heads of the residential houses due to racial connotations, even though there is no racist connection with the term which originated in England. At the time, I expressed concern over the lack of a clear understanding of when historical terms must be curtailed or eliminated due to misunderstandings of their meaning or origins. Now, students at Lebanon Valley College are calling for the name of “Lynch Memorial Hall” to be changed due to the racial overtones of the word “lynch.” However, “Lynch” is clearly not being used as a verb (which would hardly make such to “lynch Memorial Hall” unless there was a person named Memorial Hall. Rather, it is a well-known reference to Clyde A. Lynch who was president of Lebanon Valley College from 1932 until his death in 1950. This would seem a case where the school motto is instructive in rising above the anger through knowledge: Libertas per Veritatem (The truth shall set you free).
Students are willing to have his first name added but insist that it cannot remain just “Lynch Memorial Hall.” The demand was made by member of the Black Student Union after a week of demonstrations calling for changes at the predominantly white institution.
In 1932, Dr. Clyde Lynch became the 11th president of Lebanon Valley College and took the school through the difficult depression years and World War II — no small accomplishment. He died in office in 1950.
I could understand if the building was named after Captain William Lynch of Pittsville, Virginia — though Captain Lynch was known as someone who stretched the necks of British loyalists through his ad hoc “courts” not blacks.
Is there any ability left on college campuses to simply say that some demands by protesters are simply absurd? It might be a good point of clarification . . . at least before the school invites such potential graduation speakers as the current United States Attorney General. . . . Loretta Lynch.