Students at Minnesota State University-Mankato want a statue of Abraham Lincoln removed from the school’s student union building, and “community conversations” are now being held to address that very concern.
MSU-Mankato has a history of students, specifically Native American students, opposing the Abraham Lincoln statue, but now the university is formally responding to the concerns.
Students object to the monument because Lincoln, considered one of the greatest presidents in American history for his role in abolishing slavery, is also credited with hanging 38 Dakota men in Mankato after the U.S.-Dakota War.
Some students and faculty are concerned about whether the historical value of the statue is worth the current impact on students.
Gwen Westerman, an English professor and member of the recently formed Campus Buildings and Landmarks Committee, said it is important to consider the Dakota men in the war who were not hanged and “how that impacted generations of people.”
The committee was assembled by MSU-Mankato President Richard Davenport last fall after he received several comments from concerned students and faculty members about certain historical figures being represented on campus.
The Campus Buildings and Landmarks team was then tasked with reviewing the names of buildings and monuments around campus, seeking out ones that might be “controversial,” according to the Mankato Free Press.
“The Abraham Lincoln statue in the Centennial Student Union was identified as a major concern,” reads a post from the student union.
The committee wants to include more context with the statue and is considering moving it to a less prominent location, but it does not want to remove it altogether, the Mankato Free Press reported. The committee’s position is that the statue could function as an educational tool on slavery and racism if paired with a more comprehensive history.
The Reporter, MSU’s student newspaper, reported in March that one Native American student is reminded that she doesn’t “belong here” every time she passes the Lincoln statue.
Another student said he understands the historical value, but “why should that overshadow the negative feelings a marginalized community has?”
“Just remove it,” the student said.
Another student claimed that it would be understandable if a Native American student chose to attend college somewhere else because of the presence of the Lincoln statue and his history with the Dakota people.
Following a story in the Mankato Free Press, a reader poll found that 230 out of 243 voters, about 95%, think the statue should stay right where it is.
A community discussion surrounding the Lincoln statue took place Monday and was led by Westerman.
Students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison also advocated for the removal of a Lincoln statue last summer, citing Lincoln’s “anti-Indigenous and anti-black history,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal.