President Kaler's Preliminary Recommendations on Building Names 3/1/19

  Office of the President

Dear members of the University community,

Earlier today, materials for the March Board of Regents meetings were published on regents.umn.edu. These materials included my preliminary recommendations to the Board to remove the names from four buildings on the University’s Twin Cities campus: Coffman Memorial Union, Nicholson Hall, Middlebrook Hall, and Coffey Hall.

I came to these preliminary recommendations in consultation with Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson after studying the Report of the Task Force on Building Names and Institutional History and reflecting on initial feedback from the campus community and beyond.

I entered this process with an open mind, and at this stage I believe that changing the names is the right path for the University of Minnesota. However, I describe my recommendations as preliminary because I would like to continue hearing from the University community and engaging with the descendants of the individuals after whom the buildings were named.

My recommendations do not create any immediate changes to the building names. The Board reserves full authority to name or remove existing names from University buildings. Additionally, the Board is not expected to take action on these matters in March and does not meet in April.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m sincerely grateful for the task force and its comprehensive work. Task force members spent countless hours conducting thorough primary research and thoughtful analysis, including arguments for and against these buildings’ names and providing final recommendations. Their work was essential to considering how the University represents and commemorates its institutional history, values, and highest ideals. 

Public comments throughout this process also helped shape our discussions about this issue. I appreciate everyone who submitted the more than 350 comments we have received to date. There is still time for your voice to be heard if you have an opinion. Please visit the University History website to review the analysis and submit a comment. You can also provide input by emailing uhistory@umn.edu.

This has been one of the most comprehensive reviews of institutional history and honorary namings undertaken by any university, and for good reason. Such deep thoughtfulness, regard for truth, and attention to context is central to our mission as a comprehensive research university and teaching and learning institution. This is significant and lasting work that deserves our careful consideration. To ensure any future discussions about University history are approached thoughtfully, later this spring Provost Hanson and I will appoint a permanent Advisory Committee on University History. This group will be asked to develop approaches to more fully tell our history, continuing the work of reckoning with our institution’s past and building a welcoming, inclusive campus.

Thank you for your attention to and concern for these important issues.

Sincerely,

Eric W. Kaler
President

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