The College of William and Mary’s Board of Visitors approved new principles for redesignating buildings and spaces Friday, Sept. 25. The decision comes two months after the College created a working group charged with reevaluating campus’s commemoration of historical figures tied to the College’s racial history. The change was announced in a press statement written by College spokesperson Erin Zagursky and Chief Communications Officer Brian Whitson.
The working group called for the immediate renaming of Trinkle and Maury Halls and also specified the College’s guiding principles for renaming campus structures during the next several months. According to the press statement, Trinkle, a hall within Campus Center, will now be known as Unity Hall. Former Virginia Governor Elbert Trinkle played a substantial role in facilitating Jim Crow laws throughout the state. Maury Hall at the College’s Virginia Institute for Marine Science and named for Confederate officer Matthew Maury, will be redesignated as York River Hall.
College President Katherine Rowe said the immediate renaming of these buildings is a meaningful first step in the working group’s efforts.
“With clarity provided by the principles, two campus spaces have already been identified to be renamed. I know that the Design Review Board, which includes a variety of voices, will continue reviewing other naming and renaming suggestions in a fair and consistent manner, with respect for the gravity of their decisions.”
“With clarity provided by the principles, two campus spaces have already been identified to be renamed,” Rowe said in a press statement. “I know that the Design Review Board, which includes a variety of voices, will continue reviewing other naming and renaming suggestions in a fair and consistent manner, with respect for the gravity of their decisions.”
In addition to renaming Trinkle and Maury, the working group plans to conduct additional research into Taliaferro Hall before the Board reconvenes in November, and has also been ordered to develop three names that may be used as names for future campus spaces. According to the press statement, the group’s limited renaming proposals exemplify the College’s reluctance to rename all campus spaces’ names affiliated with the Confederacy and slave ownership due to their role in the College’s founding.
“William & Mary is, at heart, a colonial institution that is central to and interwoven in the founding of our nation,” College Rector John Littel said in a press statement. “So, while it is our responsibility to contextualize these individuals and add to the history already here, it is incumbent upon all of us to recognize that there would be no William & Mary and, indeed no United States of America, without these individuals.”
The working group’s progress has earned mixed reviews from students. Salli Sanfo ’22 led several petitions over the summer urging the College to rename several buildings, including Taliaferro and Ewell Hall, which was not mentioned in the Sept. 25 press statement. Sanfo was disappointed in the group’s initial developments.
“So- overall I’m very dissatisfied with the current renaming choices and I hope the school will expand to more names,” Sanfo said in a written statement. “There is something strangely ironic about the school putting a memorial for the enslaved near Tyler (the man who wrote the confederate catchecism) and across from Taliaferro, a confederate general.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article previously attributed a quote to Harvard University professor Annette Gordon-Reed. This quote should have been attributed to College Rector John Littel. Last updated Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 2 p.m. Additionally, Salli Sanfo ’22 requested a minor change to her quotes for historical accuracy.