Letter to the Editor: Preserving the past

November 4, 2015 by Bruce Irving

To the Editor:

During a recent visit to campus, I was walking around marveling at all the construction. It’s exciting to see how the College continues to expand while keeping the best of the old. I was saddened, however, to see a part of the renovation of Weston Hall that strikes me as counter to the intellectual curiosity and honesty that the school stands for.

The “swastika” on the gable end of the building has been removed, the brick chiseled out by order of someone at the College because it was the source of “a few complaints every year,” according to a construction person I spoke to.

Weston was built in 1906 as a home to the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. The Record, in a Feb. 19, 2002, article, quoted the Encyclopedia Britannica as saying that “the swastika, an ancient symbol that recurs in the art of many ancient cultures, did not gain anti-Semitic connotations until 1910 and became the symbol for the German National Socialist Party in 1922. The swastika on the Weston wall was there long before the Nazis” (“Is that a swastika on Weston Hall? The Record investigates,” Feb. 19, 2002). Moreover, the article reported, the Nazi symbol rotates in a clockwise fashion, while the brick design on Weston turned counterclockwise.

To my mind, it’s a shame to have lost this curious piece of the past. Erasing it erases a chance for the current generation to ask about it, learn about it and talk about it – just as some of my friends and I did when it caught our attention back in the day. It’s as if the desire to avoid offense has ended a conversation. Conversation, no matter how uncomfortable, is how people think together.

Bruce Irving ’83

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