The Collegian
Thursday, December 01, 2022

Student government survey shows majority of students want building names changed

<p>A view of Boatwright Memorial Library from behind Ryland Hall.</p>

A view of Boatwright Memorial Library from behind Ryland Hall.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated there was a student on the Board of Trustees instead of the Naming Principles Commission.

About 70% of undergraduates voting in a survey sent out by the student governments support the renaming of Mitchell-Freeman and Ryland halls. 

The survey, sent via email to University of Richmond students, had 814 respondents – about a quarter of the undergraduate population – and asked students to indicate their feelings regarding the names of Robert Ryland on Ryland Hall and Douglas Southall Freeman on Mitchell-Freeman Hall. Participants could select from the following options: it should remain, it should be changed, undecided and no opinion. 

Nearly 69% of the respondents think that the name of Ryland Hall should change and 72% think the name of Mitchell-Freeman Hall should change. When considering Ryland Hall, 15.2% voted that the name should remain, 6% were undecided and 9.8% had no opinion; with Mitchell-Freeman Hall, 12.3% voted to keep the name, 5.7% were undecided and 10.1% had no opinion. 

Ryland Survey Results


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Senior Anthony Lawrence, Richmond College Student Government Association president, and junior Penny Hu, Westhampton College Government Association president, will present the findings to the Board of Trustees in a meeting on Feb. 25. 

“This is what wasn’t there when [the Board] made the initial decision to keep the names last year,” Lawrence said, “but [the trustees] didn't know that the students weren't consulted at all — nobody consulted us on the decision.” 

UR is focusing on the work of the Naming Principles Commission, wrote Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations, in an email to The Collegian.

The survey was intended to provide student input to the Board when considering the naming principles in the cases of Ryland and Freeman, Lawrence said. The survey was active from Jan. 24 to Feb. 6 — opening three days after the release of the results of the Gallup survey, which was commissioned by UR and sent to students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents.

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The initial goal of the survey was to gather more respondents than the Gallup survey, which was open from Oct. 18 to Nov. 19, Lawrence said. The student governments’ survey was open for two weeks less than Gallup’s and almost surpassed its 958 student respondents, Lawrence said.  

“Now, we want to use this survey to show the Board that, ‘Yeah, we need a voice in this room, and this is what we really think,’” Lawrence said. “And so now that you have this information, make decisions off of this information for this specific instance.” 

Some students, such as senior Charles Miller III, were glad to see the wide consensus in favor of renaming the buildings. He was worried, however, that UR would just rename the buildings and halt further social justice initiatives, he said. 

“It seems purely performative if there are still large departments, spaces and conversations on campus that exclude POC,” Miller said. 

The survey also provided a short-answer section, allowing students to voice any other opinions regarding the renaming to the Board. The final question on the survey asked students to rate the extent to which they agree that there should be a voting student member on the Board with the following breakdown: 5% voted strongly disagree, 4.9% voted disagree, 19.7% voted agree, 63.3% voted strongly agree, 3.9% voted undecided and 3.2% voted no opinion. 

There is currently one student seat on the Naming Principles Commission. WCGA and RCSGA unanimously passed a joint resolution demanding the board add student and staff trustees on Feb. 2, Hu said. 

“No matter what, those building name changes affect us more than they affect the Board of Trustees who are miles and miles away from campus,” she said. “They will not see those building names every single day, but as students, we are seeing those building names every single day.” 

Contact Co-Managing Editor Ryan Hudgins at ryan.hudgins@richmond.edu.

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