As our country finds itself amidst a renewed and urgent movement for racial justice, 300 University of Georgia Foundation Fellow and Ramsey Scholar alumni have signed a letter demanding that the university take further action to bring this ideal into reality. Specifically, this letter calls on the university administration to rename the campus buildings, colleges and institutions that honor the violent legacies of slavery and segregation.
UGA buildings named for enslavers, Confederate officers and virulent segregationists honor men who fought across political and military fronts to enshrine systems of white supremacy throughout the state and the country. By maintaining such names on the body of the campus, the university elevates people who, through their own words and deeds, should be disqualified from such distinction.
In February 2020, the ideology of white supremacy descended upon Georgia’s native son Ahmaud Arbery and took from him his life. That ideology shielded his killers from prosecution for months. That ideology, repugnant in each of its manifestations, must find no safe harbor within the gates of the university. It must be fully and unequivocally repudiated by any institution of repute responsible for the education of Georgia’s young people.
Our letter, bearing the signatures of alumni from classes between 1983 and 2020, has been delivered to members of the UGA Foundation, the President’s office, and the University System of Georgia advisory group charged with reviewing building names. While we were encouraged by the creation of the advisory group, it is imperative that this process conclude in the rejection of the status quo in favor of equality and justice. It is our fervent hope that it will.
Even as we alumni deliver this letter, we also seek to amplify the voices of the students who are currently pursuing their education at UGA. Several student groups are working now to foster lasting change that reaches far beyond the renaming of buildings. These students seek to attack racial injustice at its root, demanding that the university do its part to redress past wrongs and set itself an egalitarian path into the future. As alumni we stand behind these young people and encourage the university to do the same.
The University of Georgia, and the buildings that stand as the bones of its body, will be here long after each of us has come and gone. Those opposed to our call will say that the names on these buildings are part of Georgia’s history, that the university we inherited is their legacy. Well, we too are part of this university’s history. And the call to rename these buildings is part of our legacy, our contribution to the annals of time. What we offer to those who come behind us is a moment when our community spanning generations has come together to demand that the institution from which it sprung make good on the promise of its values.
We look forward to change coming swiftly to the UGA campus.
On behalf of the Foundation Fellow and Ramsey Scholar alumni signatories,