After rejecting a memorial to Marine Corps fighter ace Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, a University of Washington alumnus — and feeling the sting of talk radio, television commentators and the e-mail-sending public — UW students may now back a tribute to all former students who have received the Medal of Honor.
A resolution calling for students to recognize five Medal of Honor recipients has been submitted to the student government, and it will probably be considered next week. Student government leaders briefly discussed the issue at a meeting Tuesday night.
The university itself, which received hundreds of e-mails about the rejection of a memorial to Boyington, is also trying to cool public tempers that student leaders raised when, among other things, some questioned whether the university should honor a Marine who had killed people or another rich white man.
The UW created a scholarship last week named for Boyington that will go to undergrads who are a Marine Corps veteran or the child of one.
The controversy also has spurred some UW students to propose that their peers show their support for the military by honoring those who have died in the Iraq war and back military recruiters on campus.
Earlier this month, the UW student government failed by one vote to pass a resolution that would have supported the creation of a memorial to Boyington, a pilot with the Flying Tigers and later the Marines in World War II.
Their decision became public when a member of the UW College Republicans e-mailed the news to a Seattle talk radio host.
As reports of the decision spread through Internet blogs and other media, students received scores of e-mails from people who disagreed with their decision and some of their comments, which were posted in online meeting minutes. Students have said their comments were taken out of context.
The latest resolution — brought forward by the same UW senior who proposed recognizing Boyington — would honor five former UW students who received the Medal of Honor: Boyington, Deming Bronson, Robert Galer, Robert Leisy and William Nakamura.
“I certainly hope it passes,” said Andrew Everett, who sponsored the resolution. “I was disappointed that the last one failed, but at the same time I would not be surprised by any decision that the senate reaches.”
Any campus memorial would have to be approved by university officials, including the president. The UW has memorials to World Wars I and II and the Spanish Civil War.
The UW fund-raising department received about 25 phone calls on Friday from people who wanted to honor Boyington; later that day, the university set up a scholarship fund in his name, said Renee Fricke, director of the UW’s annual giving programs.
More than 100 people had donated more than $8,000 to the fund as of Tuesday, she said.
“We had a few alums who were upset, but especially our donors, they know working through us … they can turn negative things into something positive,” Fricke said.
Donations can be made at www.uwfoundation.org
The university received around 300 e-mails about the issue, spokesman Norm Arkans said last week.
In the wake of the controversy, several other students have proposed resolutions related to Boyington or the military.
One calls for a UW student to publicly apologize for comments she made about the military and read a book about Boyington — or lose her senate seat.
Another asks the senate to support military recruiters’ right to be on campus.
A third calls for UW students to recognize members of the military who have died in Iraq with a campus monument.