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University of Richmond Will Keep Controversial Building Names

March 18, 2021

University of Richmond leaders are standing firm on their decision to retain the names of a slave owner and a segregationist on campus buildings, despite threats by Black students to disaffiliate from the university if changes aren’t made.

Earlier this month, a coalition led by Black students demanded that the names of the Reverend Robert Ryland, a church leader and slave owner who helped found the university, and Douglas Southall Freeman, the segregationist and a former university trustee who was also an eugenicist, be removed from two campus buildings. The students gave the university an April deadline to do so and threatened to pull out of campus organizations and administrative task forces if the changes and other demands were not met.

In a statement sent Wednesday to students, alumni, faculty members and other members of campus, the university’s Board of Trustees said they “understand the disappointment and hurt” that students are feeling due to their previous decision to retain the buildings' names, but removing them would be “inconsistent with the pursuit of our educational mission.”

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