The new EQB monument. Photo by Matt Hembree (C’20).
By Jasmine Huang
Speaking to a small crowd, Vice-Chancellor John McCardell gave a few opening remarks before unveiling the newly-built monument at Sesquicentennial Park in front of the Sigma Nu house on September 23. Titled the EQB Monument and dedicated to the first nine students who enrolled in the University, the piece serves as a replacement of the Kirby-Smith memorial, which paid homage to Edmund Kirby-Smith, a Confederate general and Sewanee professor.
The unveiling took place as a conclusion to the celebrations of Foundation Day and Family Weekend. Vice President of University Relations Jay Fisher (C’79), Chair of the Board of Regents Joe DeLozier (C’77), and McCardell all spoke similar messages of remembering the past while looking to the future where a greater, more inclusive Sewanee lay.
Towards the end of his speech, McCardell emphasized, “For those who we love and who love this University, all of us will recommit ourselves to that simple but profound declaration, and with a humility that comes from an awareness and acknowledgment of our own shortcomings. Strive to sustain here and to carry beyond our gates that spirit, Ecce quam bonum.”
However, some of the audience members were skeptical of the overall theme. Recent alumna Morgan Carroll (C’18) commented, “Well, before Friday, I thought of this as a really good step. And it still is a really good step, except some of the remarks that were made at the Convocation gowning ceremony on Friday kind of contradict what this is supposed to be. So I think this could be a good thing, but I’m wary that it’s for show.”
Attached to the plinth of the previous statue, a black and gold plaque reads in large letters EQB, and towards the middle, Ecce Quam Bonum, the Latin translation for the phrase “How good it is.” At the bottom is Psalm 133:1 from which it derives: “Behold how good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity.” This is a different translation than previously employed, when “brothers and sisters” was used instead of “kindred.”
On the back of the monument rests another plaque with four inscriptions detailing stories from the first founding in 1857, the second founding in 1866, and in 1868 when the school officially opened its doors after the Civil War.
The final and longest inscription is for 2018, which notes the monument as a “fitting reminder to the Sewanee community––a more diverse and inclusive one than any of the founders could have envisioned––to carry on its work of imagining and reimagining a great university.”
After observing the procession walk down University Avenue, where they drew to a close at All Saints’ Chapel for a prayer, Carroll said, “In Vice-Chancellor McCardell’s speech [from Friday’s Convocation], he talked a lot about how who among us is not imperfect, and how basically, slave owners were also imperfect just the way that we are. While that is technically true, it’s not the way I would frame things, because there are different levels of imperfection, and some are a little more forgivable than others.”
Carroll added, “I think holding onto the fact that they were ‘imperfect’ kind of excuses the fact that they were doing things that were pretty heinous, and on top of that, acting as if EQB has meant the same thing then as it does now is not entirely accurate because people who are now, by most, considered people, were not considered then. People of color, some women––EQB did not stand for everyone.”
Pointing to the edifice, she concluded, “It stood for white rich men, and that’s something that needs to be addressed but was something that was very ignored in that speech, which contradicts what this is supposed to be and what I hope this becomes.”
Thank you Jasmine Huang, for this insightful article regarding reactions to the EQB monument and VC McCardell’s convocation address at the gowning ceremony.
I agree with Morgan Carroll ‘18; the EQB monument is a start but goes nowhere near enough in acknowleging that we are no longer our grandfathers’ Sewanee and nor do we want to be. Using the word “kindred” instead of “brothers and sisters” in the EQB inscription smacks of white supremacy. With a name like The University of The South, which now seems to be used over “Sewanee”, we’ve got to work extra hard to rise above the predjudices assigned to the American South. Let’s respecfully honor the hard work of the founders and fully acknowledge the attitudes of these men, without excuse of sin or culture of the times.
The omission in a recent article about Sewanee in the Wall Street Journal of The Project on Slavery, Race and Reconciliation along with Sewanee’s membership in the Universities Studying Slavery (USS) organization was a missed opportunity by those interveiwed. When I wear my Sewanee t-shirt, I want others to know who we are today; that in accepting the true tragedies of slavery our university was built upon we are moving forward into a better future for us all.
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