The University System of Georgia’s advisory group to rename buildings, schools and colleges at USG schools met for the first time on Thursday. They discussed the criteria they will use to evaluate the renaming process, how they will research the history behind each building or school and how often they will meet.
The board will review the names of all buildings and colleges at all 26 USG campuses and report to the Board of Regents, USG’s governing body, on the changes they recommend, USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said.
Wrigley also said that the board’s role is to review current names and recommend whether or not to remove them, rather than recommend a new name. If the board recommends a renaming, the university would have the responsibility of deciding its new name.
Albany State University President Marion Fedrick is the advisory board’s chairwoman. There are four other members of the board, none of whom are students.
Throughout the meeting, Fedrick reminded the group that the committee will address every building, college and school at each of the 26 USG institutions. Wrigley estimated that there are at least 3,000 buildings within those institutions.
Most of the inaugural meeting was spent establishing how the board will begin to review names of buildings, colleges and schools. Fedrick recommended that the board look at USG’s research institutions first because they have the most land mass, colleges and buildings. This would include the University of Georgia.
The board established a beginning framework for the criteria which will inform them of whether or not they should recommend a name change. Board member Michael Patrick proposed a set of values, such as inclusivity, that the board works from in order to determine whether or not a building name should be changed or kept the same.
Fedrick said she will send a survey to each president of the 26 USG schools. The survey will ask the presidents to write their school’s mission statement, ask them to write what they want their school to embody and potentially ask them what “academic excellence” means to their university.
After the board receives responses from the survey, the board will establish a more concrete framework for reviewing each building, college and school.
Fedrick mentioned that the board will have to evaluate the person behind each named building.
“We could pick out a whole list of people who, if they were a part of this organization or that organization, [are] not a good representation of what the University System believes in today,” Fedrick said. “We’re looking at what the university believes in today and what we want them to believe in going forward.”
Patrick mentioned that the board will also have to look at why the building, school or college was named after a person in the first place.
“If this person invented something that was incredible with society, but also has some attributes that maybe don’t line up exactly with inclusivity, [you have to consider] what they’re honored for,” Patrick said. “What about them was named?”
Board member Sally Wallace, dean of the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, brought up that “people are not static” and can change over time. Whether or not they changed over time is something to consider, she said.
As far as the resources which will inform the board’s recommendations, Fedrick said that the advisory board has access to each universities’ “historical information.” She also recommended that the board brings in historians to inform their decisions and discussions. USG has also given Fedrick “well over 1,000 pages” about the history of USG campuses.
Fedrick also stressed the importance of listening to students in this process.
“As we are going through this process, keep our students in mind,” Fedrick said. “Keep the thought process that they want to be a part of this. I’m not saying they sit on one side or the other, but they do want to be a part of this.”
There is also a website that the advisory board will use to gather feedback from the public about the renaming process, Fedrick said. Feedback from this website will be downloaded nightly for the board to review. The public can write feedback on the website for a few months, Fedrick said. The specific amount of time that people can write feedback has not been decided.
The board also agreed on meeting twice a month. Its next meeting is planned for July 17.
In preparation for its next meeting, Fedrick said that she will compile a list of buildings, schools and colleges that the board needs to start considering. She will also check with the archives department to see if there are historians available for their next meeting to discuss specific goals, send out a survey to the college presidents about their vision and goals and oversee the downloading of information from the board’s public information website.
Fedrick said that the board should plan on meeting until at least late December, and at that time the board will decide if it needs to continue its meetings.
“It’s going to take time for us to dive into the information that we need,” Fedrick said. “I’m going to provide a whole lot of homework for you to do."