Renaming Framework Approved
The Board of Trustees has approved a framework encompassing principles, procedures and considerations for addressing the proposed renaming of on-campus buildings and memorials.
The decision endorsed the recommendation of the Board-appointed Naming Task Force that, after receiving its charge from Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights in late 2019, engaged in a community outreach effort that included town halls, online conversations with the leadership of the Faculty Senate and the Student Association as well as requests for questions and comments through the Board of Trustees web portal.
“As institutions across the nation grapple with how best to confront difficult legacies of racial injustice, our hope is that we have given the university a guidepost in the form of a useful set of questions to ask in the extraordinary circumstance of reconsidering the name of a building or memorial,” said Trustee and Naming Task Force Chair Mark Chichester, B.B.A. ’90, J.D. ’93. “I want to thank the many members of our community who shared their thoughts and concerns in helping us arrive at a framework that we hope will reasonably stand the test of time.”
In proposing the renaming framework, the task force also noted that reconsidering a name “should be a rare undertaking, pursued only in the most extraordinary circumstances.”
About the Task Force
In recent years, there has been a national debate related to acknowledging and confronting history. Institutions of higher education have led the charge in these areas as they have considered renaming buildings, facilities and other public spaces.
GW has its own history that we needed to explore. As part of its governance responsibilities, the Board of Trustees created the Naming Task Force.
The task force did not consider specific requests for name changes. Its charge was limited to recommending the principles and procedures for addressing name change requests. This was a requisite first step to determining when and whether requests for name changes should be considered and in making any renaming decisions.
The Naming Task Force was charged with four objectives:
- Determining under what circumstances a request to change a name should be considered.
- Creating the principles that will guide the board and university administration in determining whether to change a name.
- Developing the procedures through which name changes will be considered.
- Creating the principles that will guide the board and university administration in determining the names of new building, facilities, and other public spaces.
The Naming Task Force adopted the following guiding principles that serve as the organizing principles for how the task force envisions completing its charge. As a Task Force, we will:
- Embrace the role of the university as a training ground for citizens and future leaders and be true to the university mission: In summary, to educate, conduct scholarly research, and publish.
- Approach our work with the understanding that our constituency is the entire GW community, inclusive of those with whom we may sharply disagree.
- Establish credibility through meaningful outreach to, and engagement with, the GW community.
- Model the behaviors of listening and compromise, which are essential to a vibrant campus community and healthy democracy.
- Approach our work with both intellectual rigor and deep compassion for the individuals who will be impacted by the university’s decisions on name change requests.
- View history in context and with a longitudinal, future-oriented perspective that will serve the community beyond this particular moment.
In conjunction with its guiding principles, the Naming Task Force developed a series of operating procedures to guide how the task force works. As a Task Force, we will:
- Maintain appropriate confidences so as to encourage the free exchange of ideas during internal deliberations, while at the same time committing to transparency in communicating the bases for the recommendations that we ultimately put forward.
- Distinguish facts from opinion, while acknowledging that each has its place in our work.
- Commit ourselves to gathering, reviewing, and discussing information about similar initiatives at other institutions.
- Gabbi Baker (Trustee)
- Denver Brunsman (Associate Professor, Department of History)
- Patricia Carocci (Associate Vice President of Development, Alumni Relations)
- Mark Chichester (Trustee, Chair of the Task Force)
- Robert Cottrol (Harold Paul Green Research Professor of Law)
- Allan From (Emeritus Trustee)
- André Gonzales (Student)
- Vincent Gray (Alumnus; D.C. Council Member)
- Brigette Kamsler (Advisor, University Archivist)
- Todd Klein (Trustee)
- Caroline Laguerre-Brown (Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement)
- Thomas LeBlanc (President; ex officio)
- Owen Manning (Student)
- Michelle Rubin (Alumna)
- Grace Speights (Chair of the Board of Trustees; ex officio)
- Camila Tapias (Graduate Student)
- Elizabeth Tuckwiller (Associate Professor, Special Education and Disability Studies Department)
- Lorraine Voles (Vice President for External Relations)
Spring 2020 Timeline
- Task Force meetings
- Task Force meetings
- Update to the Faculty Senate
- Task Force meetings
- Community Outreach
- Update the Board of Trustees
- Recommendations to the Board of Trustees
- June 8: Naming Task Force Discusses the Importance of Process, Potential Outcomes
- May 11: Naming Task Force Gives Updates, Answers Questions at Community Town Halls
- Nov. 29, 2019: Message from Grace Speights Announcing Task Force
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