Editor's note: This is a developing story.
The University of Richmond Board of Trustees suspended its decision regarding the renaming of Mitchell-Freeman and Ryland halls following the unanimous vote to censure Rector Paul Queally by the University Faculty Senate.
The Board wrote that it would review options for a broader, more inclusive process to determine how renaming decisions are made.
The censure followed a meeting among members of the Board and seven members of the Faculty Senate on March 26, which the attending faculty described in a statement as deeply troubling. The Faculty Senate cited Queally's decisions regarding renaming, his conduct toward a Black staff member and his reference to "Black, Brown and regular students" during the March 26 meeting when hearing the motion to censure him on April 2.
The Board wrote in its statement that the referenced meetings were intended to advance the understanding of all parties on complex issues.
"The Trustees in attendance at those meetings strongly disagree with the characterization of Rector Paul Queally’s words, tone, and intent," the Board wrote. "The conversations were candid and passionate but in the spirit of mutual respect. We are saddened, but hear clearly, that some parties interpreted certain comments as disrespectful. As we work through these issues in the future, we are committed to a frank dialogue in a mutually respectful manner."
Jessica Washington, assistant director of student engagement and the Bonner Scholars Program, released a statement on April 2 that identified herself as the staff member referenced by the Faculty Senate. The Faculty Senate's statement described an instance where Washington was interrupted by Queally whereas white faculty members were not.
Washington wrote in her statement of disaffiliation from UR that Queally's behavior had been unacceptably disrespectful.
The March 26 meeting followed the Board's March 17 decision to keep the names of Douglas Southall Freeman and Robert Ryland on Mitchell-Freeman and Ryland halls. In the April 5 statement that was sent to the Faculty Senate and later students, faculty and staff, the Board wrote that the motion to censure Queally expressed clear disappointment and frustration over the decision to not rename the two buildings.
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"As this was a unanimous board decision, your frustration rests with all of us, not just the Rector," the Board wrote. "We accept that this is a divisive and difficult decision, and strong differences of opinion are understood and welcomed."
The Collegian was not able to reach the Board for comment on the statement and clarification about what the suspension entails.
The Board wrote that its interest had been to chart an honest path about UR's history and respectful of varying views in the UR community.
"We respect the deep convictions about these issues among faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and we accept that our process and the proposed decision have not achieved our objectives," the Board wrote in the statement.
The calls to rename Ryland and then-Freeman halls originated in 2019 after the Richmond College Student Government Association and Westhampton College Government Association passed a joint resolution insisting that the names be changed. On March 4, 2021, the UR Black Student Coalition released a statement including demands for UR to improve Black student welfare, with the first demand being to remove Ryland and Freeman's names from the campus buildings because of the men's connections to slavery and segregation.
Jesse Amankwaah, a senior and member of the BSC, said he had not been fully pleased with the Board's statement. He acknowledged that progress had been made because the process of renaming would be reevaluated.
Amankwaah said the way the Board had addressed the remarks Queally had made to Washington in the March 26 meeting were passive.
"I did not take that to really address the harm," he said. "I just feel like the Board of Trustees is talking around a lot of harm here in their complacency with Mr. Queally's demeanor and words."
The Board expects to communicate its plans shortly, according to the statement.
Contact editor-in-chief Morgan Howland at email@example.com.
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