William & Mary’s Board of Visitors on Friday adopted a set of principles and imperatives for the naming and renaming of structures and spaces on campus.
The principles were developed by a working group of students, faculty, staff and alumni that was established this summer by university President Katherine A. Rowe in response to a charge from Rector John E. Littel P ’22.
Rowe recommended the principles Thursday to the board’s buildings and grounds committee. The committee recommended the resolutions for approval, and the full board approved them on Friday. As per the bylaws of the Board of Visitors, decisions to name or rename buildings and structures at W&M lie with the board.
“To advance William & Mary’s value of belonging, we must strive to reflect our community in all aspects of the university, including its physical landscape,” Rowe said. “Representing our history in its fullness matters, and I am grateful to the working group for giving us a strong set of standards for these highly visible elements of campus.”
The board also approved Rowe’s recommendation that the university’s Design Review Board be responsible for reviewing naming and renaming requests through a transparent and consistent process, based on the principles.
As part of that new scope and process, Rowe will expand membership of the DRB, which advises the president. The board also approved the immediate renaming of two university spaces — Trinkle Hall, located on W&M’s main campus, and Maury Hall, a building located at W&M’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science campus in Gloucester.
“With clarity provided by the principles, two campus spaces have already been identified to be renamed,” said Rowe. “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. These are places where our students, faculty and staff work, study and live, and their names should represent a robust history of the university and the values for which W&M stands today.”
Renaming Trinkle & Maury halls
In accordance with the principles, the board approved the renaming of two spaces. Trinkle Hall, within the Campus Center on the W&M campus, will become Unity Hall, and Maury Hall at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science will become York River Hall.
Trinkle was named for former Virginia Gov. Elbert Lee Trinkle, who “signed some of the most pernicious Jim Crow laws in Virginia’s history,” according to the board action. Maury Hall was named for Matthew Fontaine Maury, an oceanographer and Confederate military officer. Neither Trinkle nor Maury had a special relationship with W&M. The Maury Hall name change is also consistent with a recommendation from the VIMS Diversity & Inclusion Committee.
Guiding principles for the future
Chaired by Warren W. Buck III M.S. ’70, Ph.D. ’76, D.Sc. ’13, the working group solicited feedback from all university audiences regarding the principles along with a set of three design imperatives.
In August, a draft was posted to the working group’s website for public comment and presented to the board for review. That feedback helped the working group refine the draft principles and imperatives, which they shared with the president earlier this month.
Rowe then framed the principles in the context of the DRB’s work and presented recommendations to the board’s buildings and grounds committee on Thursday. The full board voted to approve them on Friday.
In appreciation for all who contributed their ideas, Buck noted, “On behalf of the members of the working group, I thank the faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members for their thoughtful and comprehensive efforts to inform this critical work.”
Along with developing principles for naming and renaming, the working group is charged with developing commemorative markers, contextualizing appropriate historical sites on campus, preparing a list of possible new names for buildings and conducting a landscape review to identify structures that “may be perceived as barriers to a welcoming and inclusive environment.”
Rowe has asked the working group to conduct additional research on Taliaferro Hall before the November board meeting. She has also asked the group to research three people who may be considered for future campus naming opportunities.
The university will contextualize key sites and structures around campus, including buildings and statues connected to the Founding Fathers.
Models for that effort include the historical exhibition on slavery and W&M during the Civil War, which has been displayed in the Wren Building Information Center since 2018, and the signage that was added to the Great Hall in 2019 to provide additional background and context about the historical figures who are portrayed in that space.
“We must continue to strive toward telling the complete history of William & Mary and its people, including those who taught and learned here and those who were enslaved and who built and sustained the university,” said Littel. “And we must find more ways to share this fuller history with our community and those who visit our campus.”
Littel added that the university should remember the words expressed by Harvard Professor Annette Gordon-Reed, an honorary degree recipient from William & Mary and noted history scholar, to “take the good with the bitter” as the community moves to telling a fuller story about its past, particularly when considering buildings and statues connected to the Founding Fathers.
“William & Mary is, at heart, a colonial institution that is central to and interwoven in the founding of our nation. 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. An academic setting like ours is the very place where conversations about difficult, challenging and important issues should occur, but we are also a place that will continue to acknowledge and commemorate these individuals for their contributions to our college and nation.”
The university recently completed fundraising and approved the final design for its Memorial to African Americans Enslaved, which will be installed near the Wren Building along the Jamestown Road pathway to the Historic Campus.
Work on the memorial is expected to begin in early 2021.
The memorial is part of W&M’s long-term racial reconciliation efforts, much of which is based on work by The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation, a decade-long research initiative exploring W&M’s history with slavery and discrimination.
Research by The Lemon Project has also served to inform the efforts of the working group on naming and renaming as it looks to expand the story that is told by the W&M landscape.
Before the vote on Friday, the board also heard from George Monroe Jr. and Jennifer Stacey, descendants of U.S. President James Monroe, and Sara Bon-Harper, executive director of Monroe’s homestead, Highland.
They discussed research being done there and in conjunction with W&M students to achieve a fuller understanding of the history of the estate and all who lived there.
Erin Zagursky is the associate director of university news at William & Mary.
Brian Whitson is the senior associate vice president for communications and chief communications officer at William & Mary.
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