Naming academic buildings is risky; an institution takes care to honor rich or influential people in the hopes of receiving more money or attention in the future, but rich or influential people tend to have done controversial things to get that way, and other alumni might be annoyed and put their resources elsewhere.
Back in 2011, the University of Kentucky decided to name a dormitory the “Wildcat Coal Lodge,” after getting a great big donation from the president of a coal company. Alumni protested but it was allowed to stand.
But fossilized carbon has nothing on the sitting governor of Texas.
His alma mater, Texas A&M, was going to name a building after him, and now it won’t. According to an article in the Dallas Morning News:
Texas A&M University regents retreated Thursday on a proposal to name a historic building for distinguished alumnus Gov. Rick Perry, after an uproar among students and on social media turned the honor into a cringe-worthy misstep.
Amid the discord, Perry declined the offer. A special regents meeting to approve the renaming of the Academic Building [below] to the “Governor Rick Perry ’72 Building” was abruptly canceled.
The renaming proposal came to light Tuesday when a single agenda item was posted for the special meeting of the regents — all appointed by Perry.
One of the good reasons that the regents gave up is that Perry is merely a graduate of the school and, as governor of the state, the person who appoints the school’s governing board. He didn’t give the school big money in order to get a building named for him; that was just a gift from the regents he appointed.
It was really just too early, A&M. If you’re going to name something after a politician, wait awhile. Once the man has retreated to oil-painting-in-a-hallway status, then it’s time to begin the naming.
Wait until the politician is dead, or at least a few years out of office. Franklin Peirce, one of the most obscure U.S. presidents, now has an entire college named after him in New Hampshire. This is despite the fact that it’s is now widely acknowledged among historians that it was Pierce’s poor leadership as president that helped bring about the Civil War. But he’d been dead for 93 years before the school existed, which sort of tempered people’s feelings about him.
All in good time, Perry. All in good time.