Cleveland State considering renaming Cleveland Marshall College of Law due to its racist roots

Cleveland State considering renaming Cleveland Marshall College of Law due to its racist roots

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - We have seen movements across the country to rename sports teams, monuments and universities with racist ties.

In Cleveland, a petition to rename the Cleveland Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State is garnering attention. The school is named after a supreme court justice named John Marshall.

Who was John Marshall? Research by historians has revealed Marshall owned hundreds of slaves. Some suggest the Supreme Court justice made decisions in favor of slave owners because of his ties to the slave trade.

“Look at John Marshall High School in downtown Los Angeles, mostly black student body,” said Hanna Kassis, who started the petition to rename these schools. “Why are we sending these children to a school named after a slave master? What does that say at the subconscious level if they’re aware of it? It’s horrible.”

Hanna Kassis has spent months fighting for the names of two prominent law schools to be changed. Kassis, who lives in Cleveland, wants Cleveland Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State to be renamed as well as his alma matter, UIC John Marshall Law School in Chicago, and the other elementary and high schools named after Marshall across the country.

“It’s proof of systemic racism and the whole argument that we’re erasing history is kind of bogus because the act of renaming itself becomes history, and there’s a right side to that history and there’s a wrong side to that history," Kassis said.

Kassis started a petition in June. He also started a website; renamejohnmarshall.com and multiple social media accounts and his efforts have worked. Kassis is on a committee to rename John Marshall Law School in Chicago.

19 News reached out to Cleveland State about this. They denied our request for an on-camera interview but they did send us a statement:

"We take the petition to change the name of our law school and the spirit in which it was written very seriously. We reject and condemn racism in all its forms - overt, covert, and systemic, and we accept our responsibility to evaluate our role in perpetuating racism, whether it is conscious or unconscious.

Removing “Marshall” from our law school’s name would be a very consequential decision by the College of Law and Cleveland State University that will require careful study and thoughtful consideration of different viewpoints from our entire law school and university community. We have begun that process by forming a Law School Name Committee consisting of CSU Cleveland-Marshall faculty, staff, students, and alumni which is meeting regularly to consider this issue.

In considering a name change, we will incorporate wide input and will be guided by our proud history, our guiding values, our law school’s mission Learn Law. Live Justice, and the values and mission of Cleveland State University."

The university did not give us a timeline for when they would make that decision.

“It’s about equality, right? We can’t say that we’re the land of the free and we have equal rights and support systemic racism,” Kassis said.

Kassis said he is personally frustrated with how long it’s taking to rename the universities but says he’s also mindful of the fact that these are major institutions and they need to get input from the legal community.

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