At a time when colleges and universities are coming to grips with their past ties to racism, the University System of Georgia turned down an advisory group’s recommendations to rename dozens of college buildings with ties to racists.
A year after the Georgia Board of Regents established an internal committee to study the issue, the system voted not to make name changes to any of the 75 buildings associated with slavery and mistreatment of people of color.
A Georgia law passed two years ago prohibits state agencies from renaming buildings named after a “historical entity.” While several board members released statements after the vote, no one explained in detail the reason why the committee’s recommendations were rejected.
The 19-member Board added that while it would not pursue name changes to campus buildings, there were several viewpoints that it had acknowledged in coming to a decision.
“The purpose of history is to instruct,” the Board said. “History can teach us important lessons, lessons that if understood and applied make Georgia and its people stronger. The Board, therefore, will not pursue name changes on USG buildings and colleges as recommended by the advisory group’s report.”
The committee advised renaming the Gordon State College in Barnesville, named after John Brown Gordon, who served as governor after the Civil War and played a central role in the White supremacist Ku Klux Klan in Georgia.
The committee also advised the Board to reconsider the names of three academic units — the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia, Langdale College of Business Administration at Valdosta State University, and the Stafford School of Business at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College — to make amends for racist histories at the three institutions.
Students and activists have criticized the board for ignoring their ties to historical racism.
“University of Georgia Board of Regents decides the best way to learn from history is to ignore its injustices & hope the people who notice go away,” Ayman Hossam Fadel of Augusta, GA tweeted.
Another group named Rename Grady said the decision reflects the board’s “support of racism and the upholding of white supremacy. This failure signals a willful ignorance of the history of people of color and a disregard for the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students who have to walk the halls of these institutions every day.”