The removal of a historical marker from Western Kentucky University’s campus, which notes that Bowling Green was the state capital of the Confederacy, appears to be a case of political correctness on steroids.
A university spokesman told the Daily News last Monday that WKU had contacted the Kentucky Historical Society on behalf of some students who asserted that the marker made them feel uncomfortable. We also learned that the KHS had taken possession of the marker and had it in storage.
According to WKU President Timothy Caboni, the KHS agrees that the placement is out of historical context and the marker will be stored until they can designate a location with appropriate historical context. This assertion has a familiar ring to it.
The marker was removed previously when construction got underway on Hilltopper Hall several years ago and remained in storage for well over a year. It was only after this paper made inquiries about the marker’s storage location (to which we were given conflicting accounts), and when it would be installed that the marker was remounted on University Boulevard. There were also indications there was no communication between WKU and KHS about the marker prior to the newspaper making inquiries about its location.
We were also told after our inquiry that WKU had been working with the KHS to find the best place to display the marker.
Our question to WKU and KHS is this: Why, after all this time, haven’t you come up with a site for this marker with appropriate context? Secondly, why wasn’t this chore completed before the marker was removed most recently so this piece of history wouldn’t have to be removed from public view for an extended period?
There is irony to spare surrounding the marker’s removal.
A few years ago WKU announced with justifiable pride and fanfare the creation of a new chair for Civil War studies. To launch this endeavor they hired Glenn W. LaFantasie, a distinguished historian and prolific writer, whose book “Twilight at Little Round Top” is a most compelling read.
We shared WKU’s pride in this new chair because it was one more indication that WKU was striving for excellence in ways that would set them apart from their peers.
Now it seems quite strange that with this unique asset WKU wants to remove a historical marker from campus that pertains to some local history from that conflict.
We are frankly shocked that the rationale for removing a sign which simply conveyed a historical fact was due to some students feeling “uncomfortable.”
We realize it is not uncommon for entry into a college or university environment to impact one’s comfort level as long-held beliefs and values are challenged. If, however, your psyche is so sensitive that your comfort bubble can be punctured by a metal sign, then maybe, just maybe, you’re not quite ready for the college experience.
For the record, The Daily News shares our community’s pride in our hometown university and understands and appreciates the value they bring to this community, region, state and beyond.
We also have considerable respect for Dr. Caboni, who assumed his responsibilities here at a time the university was facing budget stress which has only been magnified by the covid pandemic. He has faced very tough choices and has proved his mettle by demonstrating he is willing to make tough decisions.
At the same time, we continue to be disturbed by what we see as a willingness to erase our institutional and community history.
Our shared history is too important for that. It deserves to be studied and learned from, not removed or erased.