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UMinn renaming policy says deceased must reflect ‘highest aspirations’ of the school

Or else they could get canceled

Activists at the University of Minnesota who want to rename buildings now have an official policy for doing so.

The new “Namings and Renamings” policy lays out the process for getting someone’s name removed. It will allow anyone to ask that a building be renamed – and to survive cancellation, the person must reflect the “highest aspirations” of the university.

“The policy outlines a process for reviewing buildings names after 75 years to consider retaining the name or changing it,” university spokesperson Jacob Ricker told The College Fix via email. “With this updated policy now approved, the University’s administration is considering the next steps to reviewing buildings that were named more than 75 years ago.”

The Fix had asked the Big Ten school if any specific buildings were on the docket for renaming. Students have previously demanded that a building named for Orville Freeman, a former Minnesota governor, be renamed. Freeman had built highways in the 1950s in a way that activists alleged harmed black families.

Ricker provided The Fix with links to the Board of Regents meeting and the official policy.

“The University acknowledges the full, living history that formed it,” a section on preservation states.

“[C]are shall be taken that the process includes broad conversation [and] does not erase historical moments, persons or places; and makes room for voices held silent in the past,” the policy states.

Regent Darrin Rosha took issue with the new policy, specifically the portion that states the committee should consider “whether the current naming exemplifies the highest aspirations of the institution’s mission and guiding principles.”

The policy also asks the committee to consider if the name “advances the evolving landscape of University history and achievement.”

“Once you’ve determined that there should be some concept of a renaming, whether or not the naming is the highest aspirations, the institution is a standard that is exceptionally difficult to me,” Rosha said at the board meeting on February 11.

He gave a hypothetical example of a building that could be named after an architect who did not exemplify the “highest aspirations.”

“For instance, if there is a modest amount of misconduct perhaps…that has been determined by less strong evidence, would a local architect who, again, after whom a building has been named represent the highest aspirations,” he asked.

“I think that being consistent with the aspirations of the institution’s mission or exemplified our adherence to the University’s mission, that is a better description,” he said.

Regent Rosha tried to pass six amendments to add precision to the language but did not have any of them approved.

One regent objected because he said the “entire Rosha Amendments” would effectively prohibit all building renamings.

“Taken together, all of them put together, it seems to me to be an extremely incredibly high bar,” Regent Steve Sviggum said. He is the former Republican Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Only Rosha voted against the renaming policy. The Minnesota Student Association said the policy is a good first step.

“[Although] we’re nowhere near where we ultimately want to be, we do want to acknowledge the steps that the University has taken in order to try to remedy things of the past and make things right,” student government representative Flora Yang said, according to the campus newspaper. She is the student liaison to the Board of Regents.

MORE: Family of Michigan State ex-trustee blasts renaming effort

IMAGE: UMN Regents/YouTube

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About the Author
William Diaz-Berthiaume -- University of Ottawa