In winter 2019, the Board of Trustees created the Naming Task Force. Throughout the spring 2020 semester, the Board of Trustees Naming Task Force will explore GW’s history of namings and develop principles and processes for namings and potential renamings.
The task force will convene periodically during the next few months to address its charge and prepare draft recommendations for the Board’s consideration. During this time, there will be opportunities for the campus community to provide feedback.
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 must explore, and we need a framework in place to be able to advance these discussions. As part of its governance responsibilities, the Board of Trustees will lead an inclusive and collaborative process to create that framework.
The task force will not consider specific requests for name changes. Its charge is limited to recommending the principles and procedures for addressing name change requests. This is a requisite first step to determining when and whether requests for name changes should be considered and in making any renaming decisions.
The Task Force on Naming is 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
- 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
Updates on the Task Force's Work
Following the direction from Board Chair Grace Speights, the task force started a thoughtful and spirited discussion about the scope of the effort, the principles that would guide the work, and some basic ground rules by which the task force would operate. Out of that discussion and a push for transparency came a task force decision to provide the GW community with a foundational document to set expectations among stakeholders and serve as a signpost for the approach the task force will take to fulfilling its mandate. Details of the principles are included below.
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.
Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, we are continuing this important work. The task force has adjusted the planned outreach efforts to the university community, given the virtual posture that the pandemic has imposed. In addition to collecting online feedback, the task force will host online town halls for the GW community to share their perspectives on the process and outcomes. While we are disappointed not to gather in person to hear your feedback, it is important that hear directly from the community albeit virtually.
The community town halls are an opportunity for you to share your ideas and give your feedback on the principles and processes for namings and potential renamings. The town halls will provide an update on the work of the Naming Task Force and allow time to answer questions.
To register and submit questions for the town halls, please click on one of the buttons below.
Submit Your Feedback
The task force invites the community to share their feedback directly. Please complete the following form.
825 21st Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052