The University System of Georgia naming advisory committee is scheduled to begin its final review of building, school and college names in early 2021, according to a Wednesday virtual meeting.
Lisa Tendrich Frank, an historian of the Civil War and American South, will first provide one-to-two page biographical summaries of each individual associated with a USG building or college.
There are roughly 840 named buildings out of a total of over 3,000, Albany State University President and group chairwoman Marion Fedrick said. There are about 40 colleges named after a person within USG’s 26 institutions.
Summer protests against racial inequality sparked a campaign for renaming campus locations associated with racist figures. A petition called for the University of Georgia to rename buildings with a racist history. The advisory group formed in June and has since received and read over 1,700 public comments, Fedrick said.
“That is phenomenal,” Fedrick said. “Regardless of how we feel about the information, we have people who are invested and interested in the University System of Georgia. And that’s a huge positive for us.”
The advisory group finalized a list of names for review in the last three months with the help of USG facilities personnel, Fedrick said.
Frank works with a team that includes two Ph.D. students from Florida State University and Joshua Butler, an independent researcher and former history professor. Frank started writing some of the summaries and expects to have about half done by the end of October. The other half should be completed by early 2021, Frank said.
In the hours before Wednesday’s meeting, Frank was looking into buildings at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She said it can be difficult to find information for the summaries because some of the colleges and buildings are named after professors who lived mostly private lives. The buildings named after politicians and prominent families will be easier, Frank said.
Frank’s research team uses sources like the New Georgia Encyclopedia, academic journal databases, newspapers and university publications.
“We’re using as many of those types of sources as we can in order to create a non-biased view of the person,” Frank said. “We’re not going to follow one scholar’s biases about a person. We’re trying to get to the basic information and then create a picture of that person based on who they were.”
The advisory group will review Frank’s completed summaries and provide a recommendation to the USG Board of Regents. Its evaluation criteria includes whether or not an individual supported “any mistreatment toward humanity”.
The five-member group doesn’t include any students. Its stated goal, however, is to improve the student experience on campus.
“We want all of our students to be comfortable on our campuses,” Fredrick said. “Our goal as an advisory group is to provide a comprehensive, objective and transparent review of all named buildings.”