The 54th legislature of the Student Government Association (SGA) unanimously passed a resolution in support of renaming the Donna and Marvin Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, named after Donna Schwartz (62C) and Marvin Schwartz, who contributed $8 million to create the building.
The move comes two weeks after the 65th College Council (CC) passed a similar resolution on Feb. 24, which passed with 18 votes in favor, one vote against and six abstentions.
The SGA resolution was sponsored by Young Democrats of Emory President Alex Chanen (21C) along with seven other SGA members. Second-Year Legislator Sachi Madan (23C), who is also a part of Young Democrats of Emory, sponsored the resolution in CC.
The resolutions come over a year after the Wheel reported that Marvin Schwartz sponsored conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald to address students at an event held by Emory College Republicans and the Emory Law Chapter of the Federalist Society.
Mac Donald’s speech sparked outcry across campus after she accused students of color of victimhood and downplayed campus rapes, calling them “voluntary hookups.”
“I’m interested in seeing diverse opinions on all campuses,” Schwartz told the Wheel after the event. “I thought I would like to invite a speaker of great renown on the conservative side to address the student body.”
When presenting the resolution to legislators, Chanen referenced Schwartz’s praise of Mac Donald after her speech.
“Now, students — many of whom are affected directly by the event — are forced to enter a building named after the man who brought Mac Donald to campus to attack them, tell them that they do not belong and tell them that their experiences are invalid,” Chanen said.
Chanen added that while he is a “firm believer” in Emory’s Open Expression Policy, he believes that “people behaving like Schwartz” should not be rewarded “with the honor of their name on a building.”
Young Democrats of Emory sent a letter to the University Committee on Naming Honors, which is charged with reviewing names associated with buildings, stating that Schwartz’s name being honored on an Emory building is “in direct opposition to the values [Emory] hold[s] as an institution” and an “unpleasant reminder of the continued legacy of white supremacy at Emory University.”
SGA Vice President of Finance Ben Wiener (21C) said the platform given to Mac Donald is “not given to other student groups or other donors” who are not as wealthy as Schwartz.
“Just because someone has wealth doesn’t mean they get two hours in White Hall where they get to peddle their misogyny and racism,” Wiener said.
At the Feb. 24 meeting, some CC legislators raised concerns about Schwartz serving as a major donor of arts at Emory, financial backlash and CC being barred from holding programs in the Schwartz Center.
“There is a lot of influence from these donors,” Third-Year Legislator Ben Rushin (22C) said. “I think this transcends politics. I’m sure we want to do programming with the Schwartz Center.”
CC legislators spent nearly 30 minutes debating the resolution’s language, eventually adding an amendment that removed a reference to Emory University while maintaining references to the Emory College of Arts and Sciences. Legislators were concerned about sounding as though they were speaking on behalf of the whole University, not just the College.
Madan said that Marvin Schwartz should still be held accountable for the sentiments expressed at the event because he provided financial support.
“It’s my belief that money speaks just as loud as words,” Madan said. “If you’re paying for a white supremacist to come to campus, I think that implicates you.”
When asked to comment on her decision to abstain, Third-Year CC Legislator Katherine Cui (22B) said, “I 100% support antiracism. However, in this specific situation, Mac Donald is the person who delivered this speech, instead of Schwartz. I think it should be at the discretion of the Emory Administration team to investigate more and make a decision on it.”
None of the legislators who abstained or voted against the bill raised issues during the debating of the bill, nor did they oppose a motion to vote on the bill.
Next steps include building support for the resolution, Chanen said, particularly because the University Committee on Naming Honors will submit recommendations for name changes to University President Gregory L. Fenves by April 1.
“Part of this is that we are drumming up more support to show that it’s not a small group on campus, but a University-wide commitment,” Chanen said. CC has also informed the Committee about the passage of the resolution.
Correction (3/10/2021 at 5:43 p.m.): A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the Alex Chanen as a student in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences. He is in fact a student in the Goizueta Business School.