MTSU announced in June 2015 that it would engage the community on the name of the campus building that houses MTSU’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps program and is named after Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. The decision came following a mass shooting at a historically black South Carolina church that prompted a national discussion about Confederate iconography on public property.
Forrest, a Confederate officer praised for his tactical methods, has also drawn attention recently because of his early ties to the birth of the Ku Klux Klan. A state of Tennessee historical panel is reviewing whether a bust of Forrest should be removed from the State Capitol.
The task force included faculty, alumni and student representation, as well as community members.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee asked the panel to recommend whether the building should be renamed; retain the name but with added historical perspective; or recommend that no action or change is warranted. The Tennessee Board of Regents would have to approve any recommended name change and the university also determined that the Tennessee Historical Commission would have to give approval as well.
Forrest Hall was built in 1954 to house the ROTC program, but wasn't dedicated until 1958, when the name became official. It was chosen because of Forrest's notoriety as a military tactical genius and his ties to the middle Tennessee region.
Debate about Forrest rose periodically through the civil rights era and beyond, with the university removing a 600-pound bronze medallion of Forrest from the Keathley University Center in 1989. Opposition to the name of Forrest Hall didn't reach its height until 2006-07, when a number of students petitioned to have the name removed because of Forrest's ties to the Ku Klux Klan.
Others supported keeping the name. A series of public forums were held, with the university deciding to keep the name after the Student Government Association rescinded an earlier request to consider a name change and African-American student groups informed university leaders that such a name change was not a priority for them at that time.