By Brandon Martin
After receiving public comment in opposition to any changes to the name of Patrick Henry Community College, the school’s College Board decided in a 9-4 vote to submit an amended recommendation to leave the school’s name “as is.”
While the board’s recommendation to the State Board for Community Colleges will reflect no changes to the name, another of the recommendations, which passed with only one dissenting vote, will call for the removal of the “Patriot” icon and replace it with a compass.
The variance in the vote could stem from how the recommendations were presented. Instead of voting on all of the recommendations at once, the board took up each recommendation separately.
Chairman Janet Copenhaver briefed the board on how the votes would take place.
“Each committee will say a very brief summary and present your report as a motion,” she said. “I will then call for a second and then open the floor for discussion and after I close the discussion, we will call for a vote on the motion, as presented.”
The first recommendation report read was number 418-the Mascot Name Committee Recommendation.
Robert Haley, chairman of the Mascot Name committee, said the committee was making “one change. There is no icon or no personality that can adequately represent what a Patriot is. We think each of us are patriots in our own way. That’s why we are recommending the removal of the icon of the Patriot.
“The committee went on to specifically endorse the use of a compass. That’s been in use for many years. We’ve heard lots of positive feedback over the compass and we wanted to specifically point that out,” Haley said.
After the report was presented as a motion, it received a second by William O’Brien.
During the discussion, only Roger Hayden spoke out and voted against the motion.
“I was in favor of leaving the Patriot icon,” he said.
Every other member voted “yes” on the recommendation, except for Paul Geib and Wren Williams who were not present for the meeting.
The second item under consideration was the names of various facilities.
The recommendation under Board Report 419 will consider a change in the name of three facilities that are determined to be inappropriately named “because they are no longer used in that same capacity,” according to Monica Hatchett. Those facilities are the Bassett Walker Corporation CAD-Lab, Hooker Furniture Technology Lab, and Francis T. West Industrial Engineering Lab.
That recommendation received no “nay” votes.
The next recommendation was Board Report 420, to remove the building names for the Thomas P. Dalton IDEA Center, owned by the Patrick Henry Foundation, and on the Food Lion building in Patrick County, which is owned by the town of Stuart.
The names of the J. Burness Frith Economic Development Center, the Walker Fine Arts Center, and A.L. Philpott Hall, William F. Stone Hall and Frances T. West Hall will all be retained.
This recommendation was also approved with no dissents.
The final recommendation on the college’s name; however, showed some division among members of the board.
Terry Young presented the recommendation in three parts.
First, Young said “Patrick Henry Community College will disassociate itself from the historical figure Patrick Henry by discontinuing the use of the colonial male image in any form, including but not limited to print, social media, athletic representations and mascot persona.”
Additionally, “the Patrick Henry Community College will continue to engage it’s equity alliance response team in an ongoing effort to ensure that equity, inclusion and diversity are a part of the core values and authentic cultural dynamics of the college and the local board will request that if the state board of community colleges rejects the local board’s recommendation on the naming of the college, the state board will provide the local board with the opportunity to propose a new name in collaboration with the college and the community.”
Dr. John McCraw, Jr. seconded the motion to open it up for discussion.
Gary Collins said the board had received clear guidance from the community on the appropriate action.
“Our residents have spoken with a resounding ‘do not change the name,’ he said. “With that being said, the residents of our area have spoken, but they’ve also got to realize that it is not our decision. This is only a recommendation from our board. It is totally up to the state board, of which we have no representation in the service area for that. The minutes clearly state that the college was named for Patrick County and Henry County. I have no problems with the other recommendations that we have mentioned in this motion. It is my feeling that we keep the name as is.”
George Hippisley also spoke against any changes to the school’s name.
“I read all of the comments from the public and I can do no better than to say they are very cogent arguments for leaving everything alone,” Hippisley said. “This is Patrick Henry Community College. It has been Patrick Henry Community College. The name has not stopped people from coming here, of multiple races. I think it is much ado about nothing.”
O’Brien asked how much public feedback was used in determining the final recommendations.
“We read all of the comments,” Copenhaver said. “We took into consideration everything that was given to us. We also went back and read the resolution from the chancellor. It states that we have to determine the appropriateness of the name Patrick Henry Community College. In our research, we found that the hyphen was there, which clearly shows that it was named after Patrick County and Henry County, and there was no research that showed us when that was taken away. Therefore, that was the result of our recommendation.”
Barry Helmstutler said he had a change of heart after hearing from the community.
“I have to admit, I was prepared to vote to add the hyphen because I do think that is possibly our best chance of keeping the name Patrick Henry,” he said. “However, after reading the public comments I feel that I have to change my vote to ‘no’ just because the public would like us to keep the name. I think it’s a fight worth fighting.”
McCraw asked to withdraw his second that brought the item up for debate on the floor.
“I made the motion,” he said. “Can I withdraw the motion, as read?”
“I don’t think we can do that,” Copenhaver said. “I think we are going to have to vote on that motion, and if you want to do an amended motion, we can put that on the floor afterwards.”
Hayden asked for the entire motion to be reread.
After he read the first portion, Greg Hodges, vice president of Academic and Student Success Services, interrupted to clarify a point.
“We’ve already approved that element based on the mascot review,” Hodges said. “That is almost a moot point. It’s just for consideration.”
Young then read the other prongs of the recommendation.
Copenhaver recommended the motion as previously read.
The motion was voted down 5-8, with Copenhaver, Hatchett, Denny Casey, Wayne Moore and
Collins then made a modified recommendation.
“We leave the name as is. I would also like to add that Patrick Henry Community College will continue to engage our equity alliance response team, in an ongoing effort to ensure equity, inclusion and diversity are part of the core values and cultural dynamics of the college. I would also like to add that the local board of Patrick Henry Community College requests that the state board of community colleges rejects the local board’s recommendations of the naming of the college that the state board will provide the local board the opportunity to propose a new name in collaboration with the college and the community,” he said.
O’Brien agreed with the amendment, which did not include language affecting the recommendation to change the school’s icon.
“It did not include Item 1 and I agree with that,” he said.
Hodges clarified that language from the first recommendation had already been approved to remove the icon of the “Patriot”
The confusion came from similar language also being included in the fourth recommendation for the college to disassociate itself from “the use of the colonial male image in any form.”
Copenhaver noted that the board “voted on the first recommendation as presented. Now, we have a second motion on the floor that takes the hyphen out of number 2.”
“We are doing an amended recommendation,” Hodges said. “That amended recommendation will remove the hyphen. In other words, the name Patrick Henry Community College will be retained. Board item 3 and 4 on your original recommendation will also be retained.”
The board then passed the amended recommendation with Hatchett, Casey, Dr. DelShana LeGrant, and Moore voting against it.
Copenhaver said the reports will go to the state board in February.
“They can accept or reject any recommendations that we have made, and we will not hear any feedback until after that meeting,” she said.