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Clemson removes John C. Calhoun's name from honors college

Clemson University is removing former U.S. vice president and outspoken white supremacist John C. Calhoun's name from the school's honors college following a petition embraced by NFL stars DeAndre Hopkins and Deshaun Watson. The university on Friday announced its board of trustees voted in favor of changing the name.

The honors college will now be renamed Clemson University Honors College after being called Calhoun Honors College since 1982. University chairman Smyth McKissick said in a statement that the decision "acknowledges that now is the time to move forward together."

"Clemson University has a long-celebrated history of tradition and excellence, but we must recognize there are central figures in Clemson's history whose ideals, beliefs and actions do not represent the university's core values of respect and diversity," McKissick said.

Calhoun, who was vice president under the John Quincy Adams administration, was a slave owner, an advocate of slavery and owned a plantation on land where the campus stands today, according to Clemson's bio page of Calhoun. The school itself characterized Calhoun as an "ardent believer in white supremacy." 

Hopkins on Monday revealed that he purposely omits the university's name from player introductions before NFL games because he "felt this oppressive figure" during his three years at Clemson. Watson, who also attended the university for three years, tweeted that the "school should not honor slave owner John C. Calhoun in any way."

Both players endorsed the petition requesting Calhoun's name to be removed, which had more than 20,000 signatures as of Friday. Organizers of the petition specifically noted the university president's recent comments that it wouldn't tolerate racism "in any form" -- and wrote that the "time for action is overdue."

Clemson University President Jim Clements said Friday that he wants the school to be a "place where all our students, employees and guests feel welcome."

"Our work in this area is far from finished, but we are committed to building on the progress we have made in the areas of diversity and inclusivity as we strive to serve our entire state and the nation," he said. 

It's not the first time Calhoun's name has been removed from a prominent university. In 2017, Yale University renamed one of its residential colleges that had his name after years of debate and protests. 

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