FSU students push for statue removal, renaming of law school

Students: Statue of Francis Eppes inaccurately calls him founder of university

By Mike Vasilinda - Tallahassee Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A panel of 15 Florida State University faculty, staff, students and alumni has voted to relocate a statue of a former slave owner who played a a role in providing the land for the university. The panel is also recommending renaming two buildings.

The statue of Francis Eppes, a grandson of Thomas Jefferson, sits prominently to the right of Wescott Hall, the main administration building for FSU. Jefferson’s grandson helped gain the land the school sits on. A plaque inaccurately calls him the founder of the university.

“There is no one founder for Florida State University. He was on a couple of committees,” Students for a Democratic Society representative Maddie Hendrick said.

Now, a 15-member panel is recommending the Eppes statue be moved, and the building behind the statue named for Eppes be renamed. Students for a Democratic Society pushed for the change.

“He was particularly, especially brutal, especially racist, especially pro-slavery,” Hendrick said.

In October 2016, a vote to get rid of Francis Eppes' statue failed miserably, 70-30.

The panel is also recommending the FSU law school, named for former Florida Chief Justice B.K.Roberts, also be renamed. Roberts was instrumental in keeping Virgil Hawkins, a black man, from attending the law school at the University of Florida.

FSU alum Andre Gordon said he sees both sides.

“A lot of the land here was probably -- probably had slaves on it, so I don’t know. Are we going to remove everything?” Gordon said.

Renaming the law school would require a vote of the legislature. The fate of the statue and Eppes Hall are now in the hands of FSU President John Thrasher. He’s promised a decision sometime this summer.

Nearly 6,300 FSU students -- about 11 percent of the student body -- voted to keep the statue during the October 2016 referendum. However, new information on the minor role he had in founding the university has recently come to light.

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