Placing WSU statues in historical context - The South End: Features

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Placing WSU statues in historical context

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Posted: Monday, October 23, 2017 10:45 pm

Wayne State started construction on their new resident hall on Anthony Wayne Drive earlier this year. The construction plans entailed rearranging the Ludington Mall – the green space surrounding General Lectures and Saint Andrews Hall.

Many trees were cut down and some of WSU’s marquee statues needed a new home. Those statues honor important figures in the university’s history and history of the city: Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac, Father Jacques Marquette, Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle and Father Gabriel Richard.

“They needed to relocate during construction of the new Anthony Wayne Drive Apartments because of the lay-down area and need for the construction site to have room to build,” interim senior director for design and construction services in the Office of Facilities Planning and Management Fran Ahern said in an article published on WSU Newsroom.

The statues were originally on the Detroit City Hall building before it was demolished in 1961, and WSU erected the statues on Ludington Mall in 1973, according to a Detroit historical website. They now reside in front of the Faculty and Administration Building, with a small plaza surrounding the four statues.

However, following a national trend on questioning statues importance and ability to convey historical context and accuracy, some students question our own monuments.

“Some of them are well-known historical figures, but they don’t have, in my opinion, necessary reference or any kind of association with Wayne State University,” said Antonio Mercatante, public health and university honors major at WSU.

Many statues around campus do not list any relevance to WSU. For example, the statue of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor famous for creating moveable metal type in the printing industry, is located outside of General Lectures and only says he lived from 1397 to 1468.

Others such as Alexander the Great and Joseph Warren give minima background knowledge about the person, but provides no insight on the importance to the WSU community.

In addition, some students brought up how there was a lack of representation of women on historical campus statues at the last Board of Governor’s meeting.

Although there are no honorary statues memorializing women, women’s groups have played a role in historical upkeep. A plaque outside of the “fantastic four” statues near the FAB says the Women of Wayne Alumni Association funded and supported their conservation.

WSU is not immune to national discourse on historical monuments, and many students would like to see equal representation and historical context for the memorials displayed on campus.

“If Wayne State’s goal is to promote diversity and equality among the student population it should definitely be a goal of theirs to make the campus represent that,” Mercatante said.

Here is another article about placing another local statue in historical context, Dearborn’s former mayor Orville Hubbard.

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