A recent letter penned by Harvard University President Larry Bacow details the university’s plan to potentially rename dozens of campus buildings. The plan was conceived after some members of the Harvard community expressed concerns that some buildings are named after historical figures with questionable pasts.
In a letter published at the end of October, Harvard University President Larry Bacow announced that the university has launched a broad effort to rename buildings on its campus. The campaign was launched over concerns that campus buildings had been named after figures with unsavory reputations.
Through the Committee to Articulate Principles on Renaming, Harvard plans to reconsider the name of every building on campus. During this process, the committee will research the history of each building’s namesake. At the conclusion of the committee’s research, many buildings will, presumably, be renamed.
Over decades and centuries, Harvard has attached many different names to many different things—buildings and other spaces, professorships, centers, academic programs, and more. Increasingly, members of our community are raising questions about the propriety of past decisions to recognize certain historical figures by having named things for them or by honoring them with artifacts such as statues or portraits. More specifically, questions are being raised about whether these individuals’ names or representations should be removed in view of their past advocacy or support of activities that many members of our community would today find abhorrent.
The committee, which will be chaired by former Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, includes professors from the various colleges that comprise the university.
Harvard is hardly the first university to launch a campaign to rename its buildings. Breitbart News reported in May 2017 that the University of Oregon spent $23,000 on research before deciding to change the name of several buildings on its campus.
Bacow’s letter cites Princeton University’s decision to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from its School of Public and International Affairs as an inspiration.
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