New student center name debate dredges up Brady's past

A group of students accused the former dean of racism and homophobia.
MU administrators and construction personnel ceremonially break ground at the construction site for the new student center in October 2006. Since construction began, debate has risen over the naming of the new center, specifically whether to keep Brady's namesake after allegations of racist remarks and behaviors made by the former dean. Maneater File Photo

In September 2006, a group of MU students founded a movement called "Not My Brady" that contended Thomas Allan Brady, a former MU dean and the namesake of Brady Commons, held racist, sexist and homophobic principles. But an examination of Brady's original statements show that the blog might have incorrectly quoted him.

The group called to change the name of Brady Commons at some point in its renovation by passing out fliers, posting blogs on its Web site and submitting a letter to The Maneater. "Not My Brady" provided quotes from Brady found in documents as support.

"Not My Brady" founder Pat Buckalew could not be reached for comment.

The group's actions prompted the Missouri Students Association to pass a resolution supporting the removal of Brady's name from the new student center.

Now, with the recent opening of the new student center, the debate over Brady's legacy and whether he deserves to have another student center named after him is again an issue for MU students.

"From what I've heard, Brady was extremely racist and extremely homophobic and to me, a student center, which is a place to bring students together, shouldn't be named after someone like that," Allies in Action President Lance Pierce said. "I'd like to see it named after someone on campus who was not only a leader but someone who worked to bring students together."

Student Auxiliary Services spokeswoman Michelle Froese said there's no way to know what the renovated student center will be called.

"At this time we're not calling the new center Brady and it doesn't look anything like old Brady, but we also can't say it won't be called Brady," Froese said. "We actually won't know what the building will be called until 2011."

The UM system Board of Curators christened Brady Commons in 1966 to honor Brady's legacy as the first MU professor to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship award and for creating a system to provide financial aid for college-aged veterans after World War II.

Brady received his bachelor's degree from MU in 1924, became an instructor in 1926 and a professor in 1944. He served in MU administration as vice president for extra-divisional education from 1946 until his death in 1964.

In September 1949, during his time in the administration, former UM system president Frederick Middlebush appointed Brady as the chairman of a committee to research the "organization required for discipline cases" regarding homosexual students and teachers.

One of the two quotes used in "Not My Brady's" blog came from the report Brady submitted to Middlebush two months after his appointment.

A blog on the group's Web site titled "Who is T.A. Brady?" used the quote, "When discussing gay and lesbian students he (Brady) wrote '...they are a menace to a student population since they seek to indoctrinate and make converts...'"

But these were not Brady's words. The quote refers to a paragraph from Brady's report describing his visit to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Middlebush set up meetings for Brady with officials of their student health service to learn how they dealt with homosexuals.

Describing his meeting with a Dr. Washburne at UW-Madison, Brady said, "She pointed out that they are a menace to a student population since they seek to indoctrinate and make converts."

The entirety of Brady's lifetime, homosexuality was illegal under Missouri law. Because of this, Brady expelled students and fired professors his committee found to be homosexuals. Brady chose to deal with homosexuals through the student health service rather than through police action.

In his 1949 report to Middlebush, Brady said, referring to a colleague, "Gurman believes that a tough, police-type person is the only one which can handle these cases (of homosexuality). I disagree."

Brady then listed reasons for his dissent.

The "Not My Brady" student group also cited a quote from a letter Brady wrote in 1947, before MU desegregated, to MU students who had asked permission to invite black students from a neighboring college to an event at MU.

The quote from Brady's letter stated "I believe the Missouri Constitution compels us to keep white and Negro students separate in activities which are part of the school program."

In 1947, the Missouri Constitution did, in fact, bar black students from participating in university functions at "white schools" like MU.

Retired MU professor Tom Billings attended MU as a student in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and served as a faculty member from 1969 until his recent retirement. Billings was a charter member of the Congress on Racial Equality and knew Brady personally.

In a letter responding to "Not My Brady," Billings described sit-ins at Columbia restaurants with black friends for CORE and being thrown out and beaten with Confederate flags as a result.

"Now, Dean of Students Jack Matthews was the one who canceled our CORE student chapter," Billings said in the letter. "He said we could have a chapter on campus if we didn't have blacks as members. But we never had any opposition from Tom Brady. He was a devout Catholic and already involved with that church's outreach to the world's poor of many colors."

Almost three years after the "Not My Brady" group was founded, its movement still has support at MU.

"I was around when the 'Not My Brady' group was founded and when MSA passed their resolution to support his name being removed from the new student center and, although I'm graduating soon, I think Brady's history is something future students should know about," said senior Joshua Barton, former Triangle Coalition president.

Froese said she disagrees with some of the harsher statements made against Brady and said he seemed to be a person who followed the letter of the law, even if the law would be considered morally wrong today.

"It's not that I'm vested in championing or not championing T.A. Brady, but I want students to look more at the big picture and really look at this man's life," Froese said. "Looking at the time, we were a very conservative campus in the Midwest in the middle of the 20th century and Brady did what he was told as part of his job."

Brady's legacy aside, neither students nor MU's administration will decide what to name the new student center until 2011. The Board of Curators will have the final say when renovation is complete.

Related link: 2006 Guest Column: Brady can lose its racist past easily

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