Students demand removal of George Washington University of Washington

The University of Washington is facing calls to remove a statue of George Washington, the namesake of both the university and the state.

The statue in question has stood on the campus since 1909.

The University of Washington's Black Student Union has garnered nearly 8,000 signatures on a petition that demands the school remove a statue of George Washington, the school's - and the state's - namesake. 

The petition claims the statue "perpetuates white supremacy and preserves its historical imposition," because George Washington owned slaves.  

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The offending statue is part of the university's history: It is the product of a years-long campaign by the Daughters of the American Revolution, which raised $6,000 by "encourag[ing] schoolchildren from all over the state to contribute their pennies, no more than five cents apiece." The statue has stood on campus since 1909. 

The petition also proposes cutting ties with the Seattle Police Department, disarming the university police, increasing funding for the American Ethnic Studies Department, and hiring more Black faculty members, among other policies.

University leadership responded with incremental measures at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, including cutting the campus police force by 20 percent and reiterating existing hiring initiatives aimed at bringing diverse talent to campus. But it did not pledge to remove the statue - and the BSU isn't backing down. 

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The university "commissioned a group of faculty experts to recommend wording for a plaque or other such display that would provide a broader context on the life and impact of George Washington," which "would include an explicit acknowledgment of his role as a slaveholder."

The BSU says a plaque isn't enough. 

The University did not comment further on if, and how, it will respond to increasing calls to remove the statue. 

Follow the author on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito.