What’s in a name(d building)?

During the week celebrating the inauguration of Duke’s 10th president, Vincent Price, Team Kenan’s ongoing Couch program encouraged members of the Duke community to think on and engage in dialogue about how we memorialize history and how that affects our relationship with our modern community. Some students expressed a sense that it is critical to represent the past, even if problematic in a modern context, out of responsibility to inform the present: “The founding fathers weren’t Jesus,” “I think it’s important to know who things are named after and appreciate the history.” Other students suggested that the best place for recontextualizing history is an academic setting,  “Actually understand what’s going on so you can prepare for a better future,” and that it is not only appropriate, but an obligation of higher education “Ignorance is not looking to improve oneself; it’s our job to educate ignorant people,” in the hopes that it makes for better understanding, in the future, “When you’re not willing to change things based on the the way they were before, you’re being obstinate.” Yet another group of couch-goers expressed a sense that statues have no place on campus, for various reasons, ranging from beliefs, “From the perspective of Judaism we don’t create statues because they are reminiscent of false idols,” “We have a culture of individualism which translates to selfishness,” to a belief that our society is inherently self-centered,  “We have a culture of individualism which translates to selfishness.”