The University of Richmond announced today that the Board of Trustees has voted to change the names of six campus buildings honoring enslavers and eugenicists. This decision comes more than a year after protests calling for the renaming of then Freeman Hall and Ryland Hall.
In addition to removing the names of Robert Ryland and Douglas Southall Freeman from their respective halls, Brunet Hall, Jeter Hall, Puryear Hall and Thomas Hall were renamed because their namesakes enslaved people, according to an email from President Kevin Hallock and The Board announcing the decision.
The change went into effect immediately– within hours of the announcement, UR staff removed and covered signage from the renamed buildings. The names will also be removed from all other places in which they appear including maps, UR’s website, housing assignments and classroom assignments, according to a report outlining the decision released on March 28.
“We recognize that not all members of our community will agree with these decisions,” Hallock and the Board wrote. “And we recognize that the University would not exist today without the efforts of some whose names we have removed. The Board’s decision to adopt the principles and remove building names, while ultimately unanimous, was extremely challenging.”
Senior Jordyn Lofton, the sole student representative on the Naming Principles Commission, said working with the Commission had its ups and downs, but they had all wanted the problem to be solved. Because she has a diverse group of peers — and is a Black woman herself — she is able to really speak for those who are marginalized, she said.
“I think I was able to get my point across and advocate for the students in a manner that I hope they're proud of,” Lofton said. “And it was hard to keep going against all these adults, but I had to understand that I was an adult, too, and that what I said really mattered.”
The Board convened on Saturday to approve the final recommendations from the Commission, which were sent to campus community members via email on Friday, after carefully reviewing and discussing the draft principles at previous meetings, according to today’s email.
In the meantime, each of the buildings will be renamed as follows:
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- Sarah Brunet Memorial Hall → The Refectory
- Bennet Puryear Hall → Fountain Hall
- Ryland Hall → Humanities Building
- Jeter Hall → Residence Hall No. 1
- Thomas Hall → Residence Hall No. 2
- Mitchell-Freeman Hall → Residence Hall No. 3
Although the Commission outlined a process for community members to submit requests for the removal of names and the creation of an advisory group to handle those requests, there are no clear guidelines for the future names of the buildings. President Hallock will appoint the members of the advisory group to start in the fall, according to the March 28 announcement.
The faculty representative for the Commission, Julietta Singh, a professor of English and women, gender and sexuality studies, credited the decision to remove the names to the activism of the students in the Black Student Coalition.
“None of this would have happened without that activism that has unfolded over the last couple of years and without a real call to change the culture of the university,” Singh said. “So for me, it's a moment of celebrating not just our institutional change but who produced it.”
UR garnered national attention last year for refusing to remove Ryland and Freeman’s names from the halls honoring them, which made first-year Christian Herald all the more surprised to see the additional four names removed, she said.
On her second tour of the campus after being admitted to UR, Herald said that she had been visiting during the climax of disaffiliation and protests during spring 2021 — “Black Lives Matter” was spray-painted around campus.
Now, as president of the Black Student Alliance, Herald said she has been inspired by students disaffiliating, protesting and holding sit-ins and listening sessions. It was a kind of dedication, commitment and awareness that she hadn't seen at any of the other colleges that she’d been to, she said.
“People really underestimate the power of grassroots organizing, and the power of the youth to get things done,” Herald said. “It’s just youthful activism and persistence.”
Contact editor-in-chief Jackie Llanos at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy chief Madyson Fitzgerald at email@example.com.
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