Georgia’s university system will not indulge in a wholesale slaughter of building and campus names.
A commission had proposed 75 name changes, largely to wipe away those connected to racism, slavery or the Confederacy.
“The purpose of history is to instruct. History can teach us important lessons, lessons that if understood and applied make Georgia and its people stronger,” the University System of Georgia Board of Regents said Monday in a statement on its website.
“The Board, therefore, will not pursue name changes on USG buildings and colleges as recommended by the advisory group’s report,” it said.
“We acknowledge, understand and respect there are many viewpoints on this matter. Going forward, the Board is committed to naming actions that reflect the strength and energy of Georgia’s diversity,” the regents said.
Many regents were appointed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who supported a 2019 state law that banned renaming buildings named for a “historical entity,” according to WAGA-TV.
The board noted that last June, at the height of protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody, an advisory group was commissioned to consider possible name changes.
“The Board of Regents is grateful to Albany State University President Marion Fedrick and the members of the naming advisory group for their diligent work on this complex matter. The Board recognizes the importance of the issue and the variety of views held on it. The University System of Georgia contains over 3,800 named buildings and colleges,” it said.
“The intent of the advisory group was to better understand the names that mark our buildings and colleges, recognizing there would likely be a number of individuals who engaged in behaviors or held beliefs that do not reflect or represent our values today. Understanding the history of names fulfills a knowledge mission that has guided USG for the past 90 years,” the regents said.
“I believe it is important for students and the system to know and understand the history on our campuses and in our communities as we work together to build a better future,” Regent Don Waters said in a statement, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“History is a great teacher, and we and our institutions can learn much from this effort,” he said.
The decision was criticized by some.
“I am very disappointed in the statement that they put out that they were not going to take any action, because we did a lot of work in good faith, after they had indicated that they wanted a report and some recommendations as far as the naming of buildings and colleges in the university system,” Phipps said.
He said it was wrong to have buildings “named for slaveholders and segregationists and people who dedicated their lives and careers to suppressing and abusing Black people.”
Phipps said the changes were important because black students and faculty are in buildings “that were named for people who did everything they could to keep Black people suppressed and in a second-class — at least a second-class — level in this nation.”
One building that has been targeted for a name change is the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia in Athens.
“The decision by Georgia’s Board of Regents to keep the names of known racists, segregationists and white supremacists of the state’s public colleges and universities is not surprising. It demonstrates to us the board’s support of racism and the upholding of white supremacy,” a group called Rename Grady said in a statement posted on Twitter.
— Rename Grady (@RenameGrady) November 22, 2021
The building is named for 1800s journalist Henry Grady, who helped reintegrate the Confederate states into the U.S. after the Civil War but also argued for maintaining “the supremacy of the white race.”
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