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Sunday, December 05, 2021

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Naming Principles Commission seeks input from UR community in survey

The University of Richmond Naming Principles Commission, established in spring 2020 to address protests on campus over the names of Mitchell-Freeman and Ryland halls, solicited the input of the UR community in a Gallup survey emailed on Oct. 18.

The Commission requests participants’ opinions on making decisions about naming and re-naming buildings, venues and professorships at UR, according to an Oct. 12 email from the Commission. 

The survey -- which takes about 15 minutes to complete -- asks participants a series of questions, including how important naming and re-naming decisions are to them and how important certain criteria, such as financial contributions or a history of race-based discrimination, should be in making naming decisions; participants are asked to rate importance on a scale from 1 to 10. 

The Commission also offers participants a space at the end of the Gallup survey to share their general thoughts on naming and re-naming decisions. 

UR alumni, students, faculty, staff and parents received the link for the survey. Each survey participant has a unique link that can only be accessed for completion of the survey once, so it is not possible for someone to take it multiple times, according to the Oct. 18 email.

Individual survey responses will be kept completely confidential, according to both the Oct. 18 email and a preliminary email from the Commission sent on Sept. 27 that encouraged participation in the survey.

The Gallup Organization prepared the survey in consultation with representatives of the Commission, faculty, administration, trustees, alumni, staff and students, Cynthia Price, UR’s associate vice president of media and public relations, wrote in an email to The Collegian.

Gallup’s Education Research practice -- which has extensive experience in conducting survey projects at American institutions -- is leading the project, according to a July 29 email from the commission.

“Gallup’s student experience research and strengths-based advising and development help education leaders identify and scale the high-impact experiences within their culture and context that will transform student outcomes,” according to Gallup’s website.

Mary Finley-Brook, a member of the Faculty Senate and an associate professor of geography, environmental studies and global studies, called the survey a small step in a longer process. Having taken the survey herself, she questioned whether it would serve as an accurate measure of the campus community’s sentiment.

“As reflected in the wording of the questions, I did not interpret the scope of the survey to adequately gauge the pulse of what I have heard many who work and live on campus communicate as ‘a pressing need for change’ in order for our campus landscape to match our institutional mission,” Finley-Brook wrote in an email to the Collegian.

Christy S. Coleman and John A. Roush, the commission’s co-chairs, could not be reached for comment.

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The survey is scheduled to close on Nov. 19, Price wrote in an email to the Collegian. 

Results of the survey will be released sometime in spring 2021, according to an email from the Commission sent on Oct. 12.

In addition to the survey, the Commission hosted a joint listening session on Oct. 27 with Westhampton College Government Association and Richmond College Student Government Association, during which it invited students to give feedback on the commission’s work. 

The Commission is responsible for developing recommendations for principles to provide consistent guidance for decisions related to naming and a process by which the principles would be applied to specific cases, according to the Sept. 27 email.

Contact news writer Alan Clancy at alan.clancy@richmond.edu. 

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