Campus Reform | Harvard launches ‘renaming’ committee

Harvard launches ‘renaming’ committee

Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow announced the formation of a committee charged with determining “general principles” for renaming buildings.

Earlier this year, Harvard students told Campus Reform that they do not want to change monument names on their campus.

Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow announced the creation of a “renaming committee” to help the school decide "whether or not particular names should be associated with the university."

In a press release, Bacow said, “Increasingly, members of our community are raising questions about the propriety of past decisions to recognize certain historical figures by having named things for them or by honoring them with artifacts such as statues or portraits. More specifically, questions are being raised about whether these individuals’ names or representations should be removed in view of their past advocacy or support of activities that many members of our community would today find abhorrent.”

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Bacow is asking the committee to think about ways to balance the positive contributions the individual may have made with any negative legacy that the individual left behind. 

Additionally, Bacow would like to know how the university would “present a candid and balanced account of the individual’s failings as well as contributions” if the name is not removed.

In justifying the committee’s creation, Bacow cited moves to rename buildings and take down monuments at other prominent American universities — namely, Yale’s removal of John Calhoun’s name from a residential college and Princeton’s decision to rename its school of public affairs, which had been named for U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.

Though Bacow said that “members of our community are raising questions about the propriety of past decisions to recognize certain historical figures,” video of a recent Campus Reform visit to the campus, revealed that Harvard students were not supportive of renaming buildings and artifacts on their campus.

"Members of our community are raising questions about the propriety of past decisions to recognize certain historical figures."

[RELATED: Flashback: Harvard students support movement to rename buildings...except when it comes to their own campus]

At first, students were in favor of removing the names of slaveowners and other potentially unsavory figures from university monuments at other colleges. 

However, after Campus Reform told students about John F. Kennedy’s alleged inappropriate sexual relationships, students hesitated on their willingness to rename Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Campus Reform reached out to Harvard for comment but did not hear back in time for publication. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft