The Collegian
Friday, August 12, 2022

Faculty Senate votes to demand more community representation in Naming Commission

The University Faculty Senate voted in favor of a resolution demanding more student, faculty and staff representatives be added to the Naming Principles Commission this afternoon.

Before the Faculty Senate’s resolution was amended to demand representation, the resolution contained three requests:

  • That the Faculty Senate be provided with the findings of the Gallup Poll that was sent to community members to gauge opinions on naming guidelines
  • That temporary names be assigned to the Mitchell-Freeman and Ryland halls 
  • That recordings of Commission meetings be made public within 24 hours of their conclusion

“We think these steps would be very helpful in restoring full trust in the Commission to complete its work successfully with full confidence, integrity and processes,” said Thad Williamson, professor of leadership studies and philosophy, politics, economics and law.

Regarding the Gallup Poll, Williamson said the Faculty Senate will be requesting aggregated data and comments from survey respondents.

“We feel that this is data generated by the university community, and we should have access to it to understand further what was said and also help us better understand how the Commission will arrive at its principles,” Williamson said. 

The temporary names that Williamson recommended adopting were names that some members of the Richmond community have already started to use – “the dormitory” for Mitchell-Freeman Hall and “the humanities building” for Ryland Hall.

“Failure to [temporarily change the building names] may further distrust that the board intends to keep the current names in place, regardless of the campus community's views,” Williamson said. 

After explaining the resolution's original three requests, Williamson proposed an amendment that would add a fourth bullet point to the resolution,  requesting that the Board of Trustees address the “extreme imbalance of representation on the Commission.” 

Four Board members currently serve on the Commision while students, alumni, faculty and staff have only one representative each. The resolution recommends that the Commision invite each of those other constituent groups to appoint an additional representative to the Commission. 

The amendment outlines the specific problems within the Commission that the Faculty Senate would like to see addressed. These include the Board’s domination of the Commission through disproportionate representation and the campus community’s growing cynicism regarding the Commission’s work.  

The motion to add the fourth bullet point to the resolution was approved unanimously with one abstention.

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After the vote to amend the resolution, Faculty Senate President Mary Tate voiced concern that, even with the addition of one new representative for each constituency, the disproportionate number of Board members on the Commission has created a power imbalance. She questioned the reasoning behind adding members to the Commission as opposed to reducing the number of trustees who can serve on it.

Williamson responded that a proposition to remove the Commission's incumbent trustees would most likely be shot down by the Board.

“The events of the last few weeks have shown there really is a diversity of views among the trustees and we would not want to lose that,” Williamson said. “If we reduce the number of Trustees on the Commission to one, that diversity of viewpoints could be lost, so that's why we went into the route of let’s expand rather than subtract.” 

The Commission sent an email to the UR community on Dec. 14 that outlined what they have accomplished to date and what steps they plan to take in the spring. The Commission members announced that they anticipated receiving the results of the Gallup survey in early January and that they intended to submit their final report to the Board in April.

The Board will be advised of the Faculty Senate’s action and will be interested in its comments, said Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations.

Contact features editor Kathryn Kimmel at kathryn.kimmel@richmond.edu.

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