LSU to change name of road named after Confederate officer

Published: Nov. 27, 2017 at 4:22 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 27, 2017 at 4:30 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU will change the name of Raphael Semmes Road which runs in front of the Student Union. The road was named after a Confederate officer.

The change is part of a plan to rename several streets on campus including a street named after former Louisiana Governor William C.C. Claiborne.

The name of Raphael Semmes Road will be changed to Veterans Drive later this week.

Semmes was an officer in the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War, serving as captain of the CSS Alabama.

Earlier this month, LSU professor Bob Mann wrote an opinion piece calling for the name to be changed. "Almost 20 years into the 21st Century, it's time for Semmes and the other Confederates honored on the LSU campus to go," Mann wrote. "They have no place on the buildings and streets of a public university that claims to value diversity and inclusion," he wrote.

"I think it's great," Mann said Monday. "It's a great thing and I congratulate the university," he said. Mann said there were already plans in the works to change the street name prior to him writing his opinion piece on November 2.

The LSU Board of Supervisors approved the name changes in October.  LSU said it conducted a review of all street names on campus in deciding which ones to change.  "During the review process, research was conducted on those who have campus roadways named for them and their contribution to the university," LSU said in a statement. "The majority had little to no significant connection to LSU and were named without a formal process," the statement said.

9News reached out to the head of LSU's Office of Diversity for comment on the decision to rename the road. Dr. Dereck Rovaris, LSU's Chief Diversity Officer, said over the phone that the road should have never have been named after Raphael Semmes, regardless of his status as a Confederate because of Semmes' small connection with the university. Semmes, who was a native of Maryland, was a faculty member for three months before leaving LSU to take a job in another state. Rovaris said it "makes sense to correct the name" and it's important that the university has the ability to make such changes.

9News spoke to some LSU students about what they thought of the university's decision to rename Raphael Semmes Road.

Celine Rochon is in favor of the name change of Raphael Semmes Road.

She told us "I think it's a good idea because I think that the university, as well as other universities and people in society, are moving towards change and they want to make change and not be representative of old ideals that um don't really represent what society is right now, I think that New Orleans is making changes as well, like taking down Robert E. Lee's statue in Lee Circle. I think that it's not just a university, like LSU's change, I think it's a universal change. And I think it's a good thing."

Mason Charrier is against the name change of Raphael Semmes Road.

"I feel that it should be taken on a case by case basis. Look at the person's individual life. And if they really were just not a good person, like the morals they stood for, they were really adamant about keeping slavery in place, things like that, then the street named should probably be renamed. But the label of being a Confederate officer alone, it should not just be a blanket thing. Don't do it just because they're confederate, look at that person's individual life, and they're values, and they're worth as a person."

Troy Jordan was neutral about the move.

"I mean, its' up to the University. I'm sure there are people who that'll be happy to hear that. There's some that'll probably go against it. But at the end of the day it's up to the university. Us, as students we can only do so much you know. So cool for them. If they like it, I'm sorry if they don't. I'm sure it will alleviate lot of, you know, especially being in the south for a lot of minorities it'll probably make a lot of people feel better showing the effort to even the field I guess.  But it's up to the university at the end of the day."

Here's a full list of the roadway names that will be added or changed:

Original name Proposed Name
AgCenter Drive  AgCenter Lane 
Unnamed  Athletic Service Lane 
Unnamed  Campus Lake Lane 
Isaac Cline Drive Cubs Circle
Ceba Lane Engineering Lane 
Unnamed  Evangeline Circle 
Etienne de Bore  Field House Drive 
West/East Fraternity Lane  Fraternity Lane 
Infirmary Road  Infirmary Lane 
Unnamed  LADDL Lane 
Unnamed Landscape Services Lane 
Unnamed Law Circle 
Unnamed Live Oaks Lane 
Unnamed Parade Ground Circle
Unnamed Parker Coliseum Lane
Dorothy Dix Drive  Parking Lot
Mike Donahue Drive  Parking Lot
Minnie Fisk Drive  Parking Lot
Unnamed Soccer Lane 
Nicholson Drive Extension  South Quad Drive 
Governor Claiborne Drive  Spruce Lane 
Unnamed Tiger Park Lane 
Unnamed Touchdown Village Lane 
Unnamed Vet School Lane 
Unnamed Vet Lane 
Raphael Semmes Road  Veterans Drive 
Unnamed Warehouse Lane 
Unnamed (South of South Stadium Drive)  West Stadium Drive 

Click here to read Mann's article.

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