Confederate Memorial Hall

A panel of the Tennessee Court of Appeals (pdf link) has concluded that Vanderbilt University is bound by contract not to change the name of a dormitory now called “Confederate Memorial Hall.” (Vanderbilt promises to appeal.)

The court also expressly concludes, however, that the naming condition applies only “as long as the building stands.” So there are at least two questions:

First, the doctrinal question: If Vanderbilt can tear down the building, why can’t it modify the building? (The answer apparently lies in the language of the contract.)

Second, the pragmatic question: Dormitories aren’t very expensive, as academic buildings go. Has the university considered simply calling out the wrecking ball? Think of the symbolism. Talk about your Legal Realism.