Cornell University’s Black Students United is demanding that school officials change the name of the school’s famed botanical gardens because the current name reminds the group’s members of slavery.
The current name is the Cornell Plantations.
The Black Students United group at the fancypants Ivy League school made the name change part of its extensive list of demands back in November, reports Inside Higher Ed.
“We want the administration to change the name of the Cornell Plantations as soon as possible,” the demand — in section four (of six sections total) — reads.
However, officials at the $64,853-per-year school in Upstate New York have not reacted swiftly to the demand to rename the stunning, postcard-like 25-acre botanical garden, 150-acre arboretum and associated 4,300-acres of nature preserves.
Consequently, according to The Cornell Daily Sun, members of the Cornell’s Black Students United are now threatening campus protests.
Cornell administrators have given strong indications that they will cave to the demands and call the Cornell Plantations something else.
“Our staff and Advisory Council have been considering all aspects of our identity, our name, our mission and how our identity can best reflect what Cornell Plantations is — and does,” Cornell Plantations director Christopher Dunn wrote in the Daily Sun in the fall.
To celebrate “the rich diversity of the world’s plants,” Dunn declared, “this celebration of natural diversity must also embrace human diversity.”
Cornell’s Black Student Union also demands mandatory racial re-education classes for students and school employees “explicitly focused on systems of power and privilege” as well as career services especially for black people.
The word “plantation” is derived from the Latin plantātiōnem.
Horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey, who named the Cornell Plantations in 1944, “purposely chose to dismiss old associations with slavery in favor of the proper meaning of the word, plantations: ‘areas under cultivation’ or ‘newly established settlements.'”
As a proper noun, the word Plantation has numerous uses.
Barack Obama rented Plantation Estate — an impressively large, $4,000-per-night house on a gorgeous beach in Hawaii — for several relaxing, opulent, lengthy Christmas vacations during his presidency. Journalists regularly took to describing the pricey estate as the Obama Winter White House. (RELATED: The Obamas Have Spent Over $44,351,777.12 In Taxpayer Cash On Travel)
Hawaii is also home to Dole Plantation — “Hawaii’s Complete Pineapple Experience” — which claims to feature the world’s largest maze.
The state of Florida is home to several places called Plantation including the city of Plantation (pop.: 87,496), a census-designated place in Sarasota County full of suburban homes, a place in the Everglades called Plantation Island, and another place called Plantation Key.
In Kentucky, there is a tiny hamlet in the Louisville area called Plantation.
In Maine, the term plantation is used to describe the government structure of some semi-rural areas.
“We got the term ‘plantation politics’ in the 1960s, the term ‘plantation mentality’ in the 1930s,” former New York Times Book Review editor Patricia O’Conner told Inside Higher Ed. “Considering all the evidence, it’s probably true that more Americans associate the word ‘plantation’ with its slave past than with its purely horticultural meaning.”
[dcquiz] Edward E. Baptist, a history professor at Cornell, opined to Inside Higher Ed that too many people associate the word plantation with slavery. “We have had prominent guests be offended by being invited there, as well as students and their families,” he said. “It has been an unnecessary deterrent to participation in a spectacular world-class plant collection and outdoor resource.”
Merriam-Webster currently defines “plantation” as “a large area of land especially in a hot part of the world where crops (such as cotton) are grown.” The word also means “a group of trees that have been planted together,” “a settlement in a new country or region” and, finally, “an agricultural estate usually worked by resident labor.”