By Anna Toth
Cleveland State University recently announced that Main Classroom would be renamed after University President Ronald M. Berkman.
The announcement was made at a ceremony on April 11, where members of the campus community, as well as Cleveland leaders like Mayor Frank Jackson, reflected on Berkman’s accomplishments over his nine years as Cleveland State’s president.
“He came in and wanted to make sure that Cleveland State connected with the community and became part of the community,” Jackson said.
Since starting as university president nine years ago, Berkman has pushed to renovate most of the campus. New buildings added to the university’s campus include the Student Center, Washkewiczk College of Engineering and the Neo-Med building.
But renovating the campus isn’t the only thing that’s changed over the last nine years. The overall retention and graduation rates at Cleveland State have gone up, partially due to programs and initiatives that he’s implemented to make going to college easier and cheaper.
“Today’s Cleveland State University is almost indistinguishable from the Cleveland State University of nine years ago,” Board of Trustees Chair Bernie Moreno said.
The above is just some of what lead to the decision to rename Main Classroom to Ronald M. Berkman Hall upon the president’s retirement on May 31. However, this decision doesn’t come without criticism. As soon as the announcement was made public on Facebook, students like Sy Castells commented their criticisms.
“I don’t see why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to name the building that contains the African American Cultural Center and the LGBTQ+ Center after a president who implicitly supported a group that posted white supremacist and anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda in that very same building,” Castells said.
Castells refers to an incident in October where anti-LGBT posters found on Cleveland State’s campus made the university a subject of national news. Coincidentally, Berkman released a statement defending free speech at the same time for which he was criticized. It was later found to be about a different event.
Berkman apologized for the response in a media conference and attempts have been made within administration to better deal with offensive speech at Cleveland State.
Castells notes that Berkman’s whole career isn’t summed up with the incident from October, but they’re still worried about the timing of this decision.
“I know that incident was not representative of his whole career,” Castells said. “But the timing and the optics are really suspicious, since a lot of us are still not satisfied with the university’s response and efforts to address the cultural climate.”
Many of the Facebook comments echoed a negative standpoint, with only one or two positive comments. However, many students when approached for a comment by The Cauldron were not aware of the announcement or had no opinion to share on it — for a lot of students, they say they will still call the building Main Classroom.