Following a review conducted by the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, President Abernathy announced on September 5 that it was discovered that Stephen Nisbet was a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a notorious white supremist group.
He went on to explain that in light of these findings, the Alma College Board of Trustees’ Executive Committee have voted to rename Nisbet Hall. Similar action was also taken by Michigan State University after discovering that a building on their campus was named after a KKK member.
Nisbet was an Alma alumnus and who sat on the Alma College Board of Trustees for 40 years in the mid-1900s. He also served on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees as well as holding other positions within the two colleges.
The revelation of his membership was particularly disturbing considering his notoriety within the state of Michigan to be a supporter of many charitable causes.
The space formerly known as Nisbet Hall has been temporarily named Brazell West until a new name can be confirmed. Nearly every reference to ‘Nisbet’ has since been changed to reflect this change—including outdoor signage, directory references and housing assignment listings. The purging of any reference to ‘Nisbet’ is the first step in a long journey of reevaluating many aspects of our campus.
In the official statement, President Jeff Abernathy stated, “Alma College denounces racism in all forms and is committed to creating a climate where everyone is safe and free to grow intellectually, spiritually and emotionally. We will move forward in these efforts together.”
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, colleges across the nation have begun to reevaluate who is memorialized, why they were important and who they were in the greater scope of the world. Alma College has begun its own audit process in which they will review the campus environment in relation to diversity, inclusion, and equity.
This process is led by administration and students working on the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board and aims to make our campus a more equitable space.
“There are representatives from student organizations as well as faculty in order to have a voice on what is happening,” said Darian Jones ’22. Jones also explained that the goals of the audit reach past evaluating the climate of Alma College. She said she hopes students can “have harder conversations, understand and see perspectives that have been overlooked and not heard for a long time. Our campus is very specific in not hearing specific voices, and we as a campus have decided we are no longer okay with that, which is great, but I think we can push it even further.”
Students are being invited to join focus groups as well as other activities within the audit so that the auditors can gain a complete picture of how students view the campus environment in terms of equity and inclusion.
Beyond diversity and inclusion efforts done by administration, students are being called upon to learn about how to create a more just campus and take personal steps to become more aware of these issues.
“Students should take their own initiative to learn and understand what these things mean. It’s been easy in the past to write things off and ignore them, but it is time to call things what they are and get to the point as soon as it happens to change the culture,” said Jones.
Students who are interested in joining the aforementioned focus groups or other diversity efforts should contact Dr. Blake or any Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board member for more information.