Sorry to see the University of Minnesota Board of Regents have their heads in the sand. The regents voted to keep the names of four buildings named after former university leaders, who have horrific records of racism and anti-Semitism.
It was a stunning decision after the issue had thoroughly been researched. The first calls for change came from the Minnesota Student Association. That was followed by an 11-person task force chaired by university professors, who studied the issue. The task force put out a 125-page report calling for the names to be removed. That was followed by then-University President Eric Kaler urging that the buildings be renamed.
One of the buildings, Coffman Memorial Union, was named after Lotus Coffman, who was president of the university from 1920 to 1938. Coffman banned African American students from living in campus housing. He also spied on Black and Jewish students. Former University Vice President William Middlebrook ironically has a dorm named after him, even though he discriminated against Blacks and Jews when it came to housing.
The actions of Coffman, Middlebrook and the two others were not reflective of the times. Other northern universities did not act that way. Moreover, segregation was illegal then (and now) under Minnesota law.
Many schools have renamed buildings after learning disturbing things about the people they were named after. The Board of Regents had a golden opportunity to take a strong stance against racism and bigotry. Instead, it shamefully chose to continue to honor those who practiced it.
- It is appalling that Walter Wynhoff only received a four-year sentence for his role in the brutal beating death of 6-year-old Justis Burland of Fergus Falls, Minn. It should have been much longer. Having said that, it’s understandable why he received the four-year sentence.
Wynhoff was the boyfriend of Bobbie Bishop, who had custody of Justis and his twin brother, Xavier. Prosecutors say Bishop was the main perpetrator of the shocking abuse against Justis. According to court documents, Bishop regularly beat Justis, hit him with a belt buckle and taped the helpless boy to the wall with duct tape. Medical professionals at Lake Region Hospital said Justis had many serious injuries that were never treated.
To help ensure Bishop’s conviction, prosecutors need help from Wynhoff. So, they made a deal that Wynhoff would plead guilty to felony second-degree manslaughter, where the maximum sentence is four years in prison. As part of the deal, Wynhoff agreed to testify against Bishop.
Still, Wynhoff hardly had a “limited role,” as his attorney said. According to Xavier, Wynhoff gave him and his brother, “spankings to his butt with a stick, a belt and a wooden spoon.”
More importantly, Wynhoff could have stopped Bishop’s abuse, or at least reported it, or taken Justis to receive medical treatment. He could have saved the life of Justis. By doing nothing, an innocent 6-year-old boy is dead.