Update on the Naming Principles Commission

May 17, 2021

Dear Members of the University Community,

We are writing to provide an update on the composition and charge of the Naming Principles Commission.

Our commitment to a broad, inclusive process is reflected in both the composition and charge. The Commission includes faculty, staff, student, and alumni representatives, selected by their respective representative bodies. The Commission membership is as follows:

  • Faculty Representative: Selection in Process
  • Student Representative: Selection in Process
  • Kenneth S. Anderson, ’17, L’20, Alumni Representative
  • Jeff A. Brown, M.D., R’85, Trustee
  • Christy Coleman, Executive Director, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Co-Chair
  • Kimberly M. Edwards, CG’13, Director of Technology Services, Law Library, USAC Representative
  • S. Georgia Nugent, Ph.D., Trustee
  • John A. Roush, Ph.D., Trustee, Co-Chair
  • Wendell L. Taylor, L’98, Trustee

In addition, the Commission, at its discretion, may invite up to two additional individuals to serve as members, if it determines that further expertise would be beneficial.

Edward L. Ayers, Ph.D., University Professor and President Emeritus, will serve as Special Advisor to the Commission. Four external advisors have also been identified. Information is available about them here. The Commission will consult additional internal and external advisors as needed.

We are grateful to all members of the Commission for agreeing to serve in this important role. We are especially grateful to Christy Coleman, who, as many of you know, prior to becoming Executive Director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, served as CEO of the American Civil War Museum, and was also co-chair of the Monument Avenue Commission. Ms. Coleman brings deep experience to ensuring a fuller story of history is told, and a creative, thoughtful, and inclusive approach to discussions and deliberations about issues of historical memory.

The full charge of the Commission can be found here. The Commission will formulate and recommend principles and criteria to determine the appropriateness of namings for an individual or entity at the University. Specifically, the Commission will develop clear and rigorous principles to provide consistent guidance for decisions related to namings, including questions of de-naming and re-naming. The principles should apply not only to building names but also to various applications of names (e.g., spaces, professorships, programs, etc.). The principles should not be limited to specific cases or time periods and must be sufficiently broad and enduring to serve as a guide to the University into the future. The Commission will also consider recommendations that address issues including: a) in what circumstances it is appropriate to consider the removal of or modification to names; b) in what circumstances it is appropriate to consider contextualization either of an existing/retained name or following the removal of a name; and c) a process by which requests may be made for consideration of de-naming/re-naming and by which the principles would be applied to specific cases. The application of principles to specific naming questions is not encompassed in the Commission’s charge and will follow completion of the Commission’s work.

A fundamental element of the Commission’s charge is to ensure a transparent and inclusive process, consulting extensively with members of the University community to gain an understanding of the range of perspectives to inform its recommendations. These perspectives will be solicited via a comprehensive survey of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and parents, conducted by a national research firm. The Commission will also undertake direct engagement with specific groups as needed and hold open fora for the campus community, some of which will address the experience of other institutions and the historical, cultural, social, and ethical questions at the heart of de-naming and re-naming issues. The Commission can be reached here.

The Commission will begin its work in earnest in August and will move forward as expeditiously as possible while ensuring a thoughtful and thorough process. We will ask the Commission to submit its final recommendations to President Hallock and the Board of Trustees in the spring semester of the 2021–22 academic year. The Commission will also provide updates to the University community on its work as appropriate, and the final report and recommendations will be made available to the University community. Ultimate approval authority for the recommended principles rests with the Board. The Board is committed to considering the recommendations carefully, with the expectation of accepting and applying the principles recommended by the Commission.

We are grateful to Trustees John Roush, President Emeritus of Centre College, and Georgia Nugent, President of Illinois Wesleyan University and President Emerita of Kenyon College, for their thoughtfulness and care in helping to plan for the Commission. We also appreciate the valuable perspectives and counsel offered by Dr. Ayers and Associate Professor of Leadership Studies Julian Hayter.

We look forward to working with the Commission and the University community to ensure a clear principles framework that reflects a broad range of input and that will serve as an essential guide to future decisions about important naming issues.


President Ronald A. Crutcher and the Board of Trustees