Message to University community 11/15/18

  Office of the President

Dear members of the University community,

A top priority of mine is to advance key efforts concerning University of Minnesota history on all of our campuses. I’m writing to share updates on the current and next phases of that work.

Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson and I asked the Task Force on Building Names and Institutional History to examine the names of four Twin Cities campus buildings (Coffey Hall, Coffman Memorial Union, Middlebrook Hall, and Nicholson Hall) and to recommend actions by December 17. We will review the report before I present recommendations to the Board of Regents in spring 2019. We invite members of our community to provide input online as the task force works to develop its recommendations.

Our long-term work
In addition, I remain committed to providing a solid footing for the University’s future consideration of its institutional history. Before the end of the calendar year, Provost Hanson and I plan to extend invitations to U community members systemwide to serve on a permanent Advisory Committee on University History.

This committee will: 

  • Begin to implement some of the recommendations from the President’s and Provost’s Advisory Committee on University History (the Coleman Committee); 
  • Consider renaming, removing names, or more diverse naming opportunities for University buildings or other significant assets; 
  • Foster ongoing public discussions about University history and provide advice to the administration about related topics.

The new committee will include members of the current task force, as well as additional members from all five campuses, student leadership, and representatives from select University Senate committees (All-U Honors; Equity, Access and Diversity; and Social Concerns), among others. They will advise the Provost and me, and successive University leaders, on broader topics related to the commemoration of institutional history.

These discussions about our University’s history are important and complex. Provost Hanson and I thank Twin Cities CLA Dean John Coleman and Professor Susanna Blumenthal for their collaborative stewardship of the initial efforts, as well as the University faculty, staff, and students who have contributed expertise and important perspectives. My hope is that this work will address current Twin Cities campus concerns and set the stage for continued dialogue across the University system with the deep thoughtfulness, regard for truth, and attention to context that are central to our academic mission.


Eric W. Kaler

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