The Collegian
Saturday, June 25, 2022

Despite building name changes, street named Ryland Circle still stands

One of the Ryland Circle Street signs off of UR Drive.
One of the Ryland Circle Street signs off of UR Drive.

The signage and plaques of six campus buildings came down within hours of University of Richmond President Kevin Hallock's announcement of the decision to remove the names of enslavers and eugenicists. But more than two months after the removal of the building names, a street behind the Humanities Building still carries the name of enslaver and UR founder Robert Ryland

UR will be renaming "Ryland Circle" to “The Circle,” within the next week, wrote Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations, in an email to The Collegian on June 6. 

“The work continues, and we’re making good progress, including replacing these signs in the next week or so,” Price wrote in the email. 

In addition to renaming "Ryland Circle," other signs will also be renamed, Price wrote in a follow-up email to The Collegian on June 8. 

Not all students were aware that Ryland Circle was still a street name on campus. 

“I had no clue a street was still called that,” rising sophomore Adi Narayanan said. “They should obviously remove it.”

UR’s Board of Trustees created a Naming Principles Commission in spring 2021. The Commission gave 10 proposed principles in directing decisions about naming and removal of all names tied to enslavers and eugenicists at UR.  

“The University must have a clear and transparent process for its naming decisions and for consideration and resolution of questions relating to the removal of names (“de-naming”),” the fourth principle states. “The same principles/criteria should apply to all decisions relating to naming, de-naming, and re-naming, whether the object named is a building, space, professorship, scholarship fund, or other entity.” 

The Board carefully reviewed proposals and adopted the Commission's ten principles, according to an email from Hallock and The Board on March 28. Yet, despite the Commission’s proposal to remove all names tied to enslavers and eugenists, the Board did not move forward with renaming Ryland Circle. 

Ryland was the superintendent of Virginia Baptist Church and the first president of Richmond College. He was an outspoken supporter of slavery, who enslaved Black people, hired them out, and leased them to others for profit. 

While people may not know Ryland Circle even existed, it is not a surprise the name was there in the first place, rising junior Gabriel Matthews said. 

"The university is a purely reactionary institution that will only do things when it is forced to," he said. "The only way the university can be forced to do something is by threatening what it cares about which is money in tuition and donation."

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Systemic change does not happen unless there is resistance from the students, Matthews said.

"When we continue to demand [that] the university care and take action, it will," he said. "That's great they are changing the name, do Robins next." 

Contact news writer Ananya Chetia at ananya.chetia@richmond.edu.

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