By Mattie Baird ’25 (She/They)
On March 28th, 2022, Davidson College announced the next step of its ‘Athletics Done Right: The Next Step’ project: the Coach Dave Fagg Field, named for Coach David J. Fagg ’58. The field was named after Coach Fagg ’58 because his ‘big brother’ from Phi Gamma Delta social fraternity, Peter Andrews ’59, donated $5 million to the College to go toward its new stadium and fieldhouse project. In early 2022, in interviews with representatives of the College, Andrews said, “To me, [Coach Fagg] represents all the good in Davidson there is. He has devoted his life to the college. Really, this was a no-brainer.” Many members of the Davidson athletic community are very excited about the opportunity to honor Coach Fagg.
Meanwhile, there has also been significant pushback from students and community members in response to the naming. Lucy Helene ’25 (they/she), a non-athlete queer student on campus, wrote to members of the administration on March 28th. According to Helene, their main concern was (and remains) the potential negative impact that this naming will have on LGBTQIA+ identifying students. They say that the stadium being named after Coach Fagg will give non-LGBTQIA+ students an excuse to use the f-slur in regular conversation.
Moreover, Vee Mellberg ’25 (they/them) made a powerful comment while reflecting on what other folks have been saying regarding the name… “It’s not a matter of if people are going to use the naming as an excuse to say this word… they already have.” Mellberg makes an important observation: the anxiety of many LGBTQIA+ folks surrounding this naming is not rooted in hypotheticals; it is based on real, lived experiences of discrimination that have been faced by members of the Davidson community already.
In response to the significant amount of student criticism in response to the naming, Professor Melissa González, Acting Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, organized ‘What’s in a Name?’, a conversation about the name of the field and its impact. The presentation followed by an open conversation between participants and panelists was led by Professor Patricio Boyer, Athletic Director Chris Clunie ‘06, and scholar-athlete Bryce Anthony ‘23.
As the conversation progressed, students, faculty and staff, and community members shared their perspectives by asking questions of the panel. One community member’s question centered around the idea that the name of this field will be permanently engraved into the lives of the Davidson community and its visitors, both figuratively and literally, for years ahead. There was a lot of conversation earlier on in the event about how the College could do community-based work with students, faculty and staff, community members, and administrators, to address the history of the f-slur and affirm its ‘support’ for the LGBTQIA+ community. However, this community member’s concern centered around the idea that visitors to our campus will see the name of the field and most likely will be unaware of the aforementioned work that Davidson would be doing. Director Clunie responded that this project is an “opportunity for Davidson to lead,” and change the connotation that this word has in our community. He also cited a lot of the work that Davidson has done in the last 10-20 years to make Davidson a more inclusive place: “We’ve become more inclusive, diverse, and equitable…” I responded to the panel saying that this naming seems to go in the opposite direction of a lot of the progress that has been made in the last few years.
Director Clunie responded, saying that he and members of Davidson’s administration would welcome folks to come to them to help figure out what makes the most sense. He also emphasized that he and his department are doing the best they can to balance all of the different perspectives that the community brings to the naming of this field: honoring the legacy of Coach Fagg and listening to and validating the experiences of LGBTQIA+ students.
During the event, Rachel Gronberg ’23 (she/they) shared their perspective… “Oftentimes, with student activist movements, [the administration says they want to] have a collaborative environment and hear [student] voices and work it out together.” They continue: “What often ends up happening is endless conversations of student led activism until the movement burns out. In the end, administrators often fail to act on the conversations that have already occurred.” While creating space for concerns to be voiced is important, members of the administration must realize that tangible change, like changing the name of the field, is what our community needs.
Another issue that came up both during and after the event was the turnout of scholar-athletes… while Director Clunie wrote a short email inviting them to the event 8 days before the event, no scholar-athletes were in attendance besides Bryce Anthony ’23 (he/him), who co-facilitated the event. In reflecting on the lack of demonstrated interest in this issue by our community, Jane Berick ’23 (she/her) reflects, “I would like to see athletes, especially non-LGBTQIA+ people caring about this.” The lack of scholar-athlete attendance at the event was disappointing to many, and points to the broader issue of the intolerant and often homophobic culture within the athletic community at Davidson.
According to Director Clunie, “There would be a long, formal process involved with changing the name.” There is already a formal agreement in place between the donor and Davidson regarding the name. The College again demonstrates how despite their stated commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion, student well-being is not their number one priority when it may result in the loss of a $5 million donation.
In conclusion, despite who seems to hold power at our institution, I urge students to continue voicing their concerns about this issue to members of administration, other students, and the community at large as they have the capacity to do so. As far as the next step for individuals in positions of power at Davidson, Rachel Gronberg ’23 (she/they) would encourage you to “think very critically about the messages you’ve already received from students, because we’ve been saying the same thing for months.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.