Letter to the editor: universities should not take renaming too far


To the Editor,

         The matter of re-moving and re-naming features of the campus is a matter of great interest to me I have been following the developments and discussion via the media and communications from the Alumni Association and the College press office, and President Rowe. And, of course, the broader discussion nationally effecting other institutions.

         Looking at Washington and Lee University’s decision to remove Lee from the name of the institution because he was a slave owner and Confederate hero: What about Washington, slave owner and hero, father of our country? Will we have to find another name entirely for the institution? Lexington U.? (no, that’s an unaccredited diploma mill), Blue Ridge U.?

         If we follow that example, William and Mary may need to become the College of Mary, since William of Orange was heavily invested in the Royal African Company’s slave trade. And as Mary was co-regent she probably has some culpability too.

         What about Washington, D.C.? Washington is problematic and, for that matter, Columbus doesn’t look so good either, given his treatment of the indigenous people in the Caribbean. And then there’s the matter of his role in introducing syphilis and other European diseases to this hemisphere.

         Few, or none of us, are proud of our forebearers involvement with slavery, genocide, or racism. But wiping the slate clean by removing founding fathers and heroes’ names from our campus?

         We need a more nuanced and grown-up approaches to living with our mixed history. Perhaps interpretive material or signage that give some history and context?

         No single factor should determine the renaming of a facility, any re-naming should be based on complete research, and input be sought from all constituencies including alumni.     

Stephen Wing, William & Mary, 1968   

Email Stephen at swla@optonline.net. 

This is a letter to the editor: as such, this piece is presented as originally written.


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