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University of Richmond Puts Building Name Decision on Hold

April 7, 2021

The University of Richmond Board of Trustees suspended its decision to retain two campus building names that honor former university leaders, one of whom was a slave owner and the other a segregationist. The decision was made after the university’s Faculty Senate voted to censure the board’s leader, The Washington Post reported.

A statement issued Monday by the board addressed to the Faculty Senate said the board “is reviewing options for a broader, more inclusive process to determine how decisions are made about questions of renaming, and we expect to communicate our plans shortly.”

Controversy over the building names began last month, when a coalition of Black students and their supporters demanded the university remove from campus buildings the names of Reverend Robert Ryland, a church leader and slave owner who helped found the university, and Douglas Southall Freeman, a prominent alumnus and former university trustee who was also a eugenicist and segregationist. The board had earlier announced that it would retain the two men's names on the buildings and add the name of a Black trailblazer in Richmond media alongside Freeman’s on one building.

Despite the widespread opposition of students, faculty members and alumni, the Board of Trustees and Ronald Crutcher, the university president, refused to remove the names.

Dozens of faculty members and the Faculty Senate stood by the Black student coalition. Some of the opponents met with Paul Queally, the university rector, and other administrators on March 26. Members of the Senate voted to censure Queally last week after they said he made racially offensive comments to a Black faculty member at the meeting and referred to students of color in a racially insensitive way.

The board’s statement on Monday said trustees who attended the meeting “strongly disagree with the characterization of Queally’s words, tone, and intent.”

“The conversations were candid and passionate but in the spirit of mutual respect,” the statement said. “We are saddened, but hear clearly, that some parties interpreted certain comments as disrespectful.”

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