Student organization introduces initiative for residence hall name change

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The newest residence hall, located at 1576 E. 115th St., will soon be named in honor of the late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, after the Case Western Reserve University Board of Trustees unanimously approved the decision in mid-August. The proposal came to the board after #webelonghere, a student organization, introduced the idea at a meeting with administrators during the spring semester.  

Members of #webelonghere saw the designation as an opportunity to make diversity the focal point of administrative action.

Tubbs Jones, who was a prominent alumna and political figure, was the first African-American woman elected to represent Ohio in Congress in 1998. During her political career, Tubbs Jones advocated for underserved populations and worked to protect voters’ rights and child welfare.

“[Tubbs Jones] embodied the type of leadership and student activism that creates lasting change,” said Makela Hayford, president of the African-American Society at CWRU. “I think that a lot of times, students are told that if they engage in student activism on campus, or critique the university … they will not be successful down the road.”

In this instance, it was a student organization that was responsible for initiating the proposal and implementing change in collaboration with university administrators.

According to Hayford, several members of #webelonghere formulated goals and presented them to President Barbara R. Snyder and the university administration in 2014. Among these goals was the intent to increase the presence of African-American history on campus.

“[Tubbs Jones’] leadership with Afro-American Society, her tenure as a congresswoman, and her interactions with so many people in Cleveland was inspiring to say the least,” Hayford said.

In 2015, the students had a follow-up meeting with administrators and presented a report that outlined specific goals pertaining to #webelonghere. Naming the residence hall in honor of Tubbs Jones was among these goals.

The formal naming ceremony will take place during the homecoming celebration in early October. Members of #webelonghere and the African-American Society will work closely in conjunction with the African-American Alumni Association and the university administration to coordinate the ceremony.

“The Stephanie Tubbs Jones Residence Hall is an amazing achievement, and our work continues,” said Hayford. “Now that we have this taste of what is possible with student activism and a vision, I am hoping that more individuals will choose to be engaged in this work and take responsibility for even more substantive changes at CWRU.”