Student committee will consider whether buildings are named after ‘bigoted or discriminatory’ individuals
A new committee at an elite Washington, D.C. university will explore the possibility of changing “problematic” building names.
Amid a flurry of iconoclasm aimed at Civil War and other early American symbols, students at George Washington University are forming a committee to examine the backgrounds of people for whom buildings on campus are named in order to determine “if individuals with bigoted or discriminatory views are being honored on campus,” The GW Hatchet reports.
Led by Student Association Senator Imani Ross, the task force will be composed entirely of students, and will work to establish guidelines for whether or not a person’s background makes it appropriate to name a building after them.
Speaking with The Hatchet, Ross stressed that the committee would not demand that building names be changed. Instead, she said the task force will use George Washington University’s mission statement, which calls for “cultural and intellectual diversity” at the school, in order to determine whether or not a building name is suitable.
The building names will be rated on a spectrum of “zero to problematic,” Ross told The Hatchet.
Asked by The College Fix whether the committee intended to borrow anything from similar guidelines published at Yale, Ross replied via email: “At this point in time, there is not much I can say about the framework of the committee… We are aware of Yale and Princeton’s committees and are open to using some of their guidelines as we move forward.”
One of the committee’s main focuses will be the Marvin Center, according to The Hatchet. Named after former GW president Cloyd Heck Marvin, who served as president of the university from 1927 to 1959, the decision to name the building came under fire at the time it was made. Those who opposed the decision pointed to Marvin’s anti-semitism and support for segregationist policies.
“He was actively discriminatory against students of color, political organizations on campus and even religious organizations,” Ross told The Hatchet.
Reached via email, university spokeswoman Maralee Csellar told The Fix: “We are aware that over time there have been concerns expressed about the Marvin legacy and the center’s naming…There are many ways that universities come to terms with their history and we need to figure out how best to understand and recognize the totality of the Marvin legacy.”
Earlier this year, Yale University renamed its Calhoun College due to its namesake’s slave-owning past. In January, meanwhile, the University of Michigan rolled out “a process to rename buildings” named after those who “supported slavery or discrimination.”