Following some pressure, the Student Government Association voted 15 to 5 to pass a resolution to name something on campus in honor of professor Anne Braden.
Braden, who died in March, was a civil rights activist who taught an Honors Program class at Northern Kentucky University since 1997.
The resolution, introduced by Senator Paul Myers, asks that the Honors House and half of Nunn Drive be renamed in Braden’s honor.
The resolution was introduced March 27 and, rather than being passed April 3, was tabled for discussion. Sen. Shaun Fugate took some heat after the April 3 SGA meeting when he said, “I heard (Anne Braden) was a communist.”
Several guests came to the April 10 meeting to encourage SGA to pass the resolution.
Jon Stone, president of the African American Studies Club, stood up to address the senate and the comments made about Braden. “I think it’s pretty disgusting this body would consider (Braden) a communist and use that as something negative about her,” Stone said. “There are a lot of conservatives at NKU, and when you throw the word ‘communist’ around, you scare them, and no one will even think about all the amazing things (Braden) accomplished for human rights.”
John Fisher from the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights encouraged the senate to pass the resolution. “She (Braden) breathed fire into the Civil Rights Movement,” Fisher said. “I hope this fine university will commemorate something in her honor so future generations of students will remember her.”
Fugate said he wanted to clear up misconceptions caused by his statement the week before. “I had read online that she had ties to the (Communist) Party,” Fugate said. “But I knew hardly anything about her, and neither did most of the senators. I made a motion to table the resolution until the senators were more educated. I’ve spent a lot of time reading everything I could get my hands on, and I’d be proud to vote to name something in her honor now.”
Fugate said that even if Braden was a socialist, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
Braden was asked many times throughout her life if she was a communist, but she refused to ever answer the question. In 1989, Braden explained her silence on the issue in the biography “Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for racial Justice in the Cold War South” by Catherine Fosl. “Whether you were a communist or not, if you answered the question, you were conceding to the assumption that the very question was a test of whether you were human or not,” Braden said in the biography.
“I want to make something clear,” said SGA President Sheena Dunn. “I don’t want people to think we tabled this resolution because we don’t like Anne Braden. It’s just a matter of making sure you’re educated on something before voting on it. When I asked who knew who Anne Braden was last week only three people raised their hands.”
Senator Kate Brodbeck pointed out that naming the road after Braden will be a difficult process. “We can’t just name a road,” she said. ‘That’s something the state has to do, for 911 and emergency purposes.”
Myers said it may be a long process, but he wants to get it rolling as soon as possible. Now that SGA has passed the resolution, it will go through the administration and up to the Board of Regents. If the Board of Regents also wants to rename half of Nunn Drive, that step will have to be approved by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.