Statement from the co-chairs of the Task Force on Building Names and Institutional History

December 14, 2018

As co-chairs of the President’s and Provost’s Task Force on Building Names and Institutional History, we write on behalf of its members with an update on our work.

After receiving a charge from President Kaler and Provost Hanson at the beginning of October, we began extensive historical research in connection with the four named buildings we have been asked to review: Coffey Hall, Coffman Memorial Union, Middlebrook Hall and Nicholson Hall. In addition to gathering biographical materials concerning the four individuals for whom these buildings have been named, we have examined the institutional history of the university as well as the broader social and legal context within which these past University leaders lived and worked. We have also spent considerable time analyzing the policies and practices at peer institutions, both in the past and present.

At this stage, we have nearly completed the research we will need to produce our report. In line with the principles established in last year’s ad-hoc Advisory Committee on University History’s report, we have entered a phase of deliberation in order to arrive at a set of recommendations. We have worked diligently to finish our work by the December due date requested by the President and Provost, but the scope of work required to meet our scholarly standard is large. In consultation with the President and Provost, we have mutually agreed that the Task Force report will be completed and promptly shared with the University community on January 16, 2019.

The questions about building names we are currently addressing are only one way of reckoning with our institutional history. We proceed mindful of the importance of pursuing issues beyond the naming of buildings as we grapple with the legacies of the period of University history that is the focus of our work. Once the task force report is submitted, this work will be carried forward by the permanent President’s and Provost’s Advisory Committee on University History, which will foster ongoing reflective practices concerning memory, history, and the contemporary implications of this institution’s past.

We thank the members of the Task Force for their commitment to this project and for the many hours, hard work, and great energy they have dedicated to it. We are also grateful to President Kaler and Provost Hanson for their support of our work and their appreciation of the time and rigor involved in this kind of scholarly undertaking. We continue to welcome community feedback, which can be shared via the President’s website.

Susanna Blumenthal, William Prosser Professor of Law and Professor of History
John Coleman, Dean, College of Liberal Arts