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Leaders at University of Minnesota Discuss Renaming Campus Buildings

Leaders at University of Minnesota Discuss Renaming Campus Buildings

“buildings named after prominent figures should come up for renaming after several decades so new leaders can be honored”

Renaming campus buildings is all the rage now. It’s a new pastime for campus activists.

The Star Tribune reports:

University of Minnesota leaders renew discussion over renaming campus buildings

University of Minnesota leaders are mulling a new approach to renaming campus buildings two years after a bruising debate on the topic roiled the Twin Cities campus.

At their annual retreat Thursday, President Joan Gabel and members of the university’s Board of Regents were in agreement that buildings named after prominent figures should come up for renaming after several decades so new leaders can be honored. That concept will be incorporated into a new policy that will also address whether to rename buildings whose namesakes committed wrongful behavior.

“We only have so many buildings,” Gabel said, noting that honorary names can last for a building’s life span under current policy. “If we want our campus to continue to honor achievement, we don’t have the place for that given the way the policy is currently phrased.”

Gabel has been working on a new policy since shortly after she took office. Students, a faculty task force and Gabel’s predecessor, former President Eric Kaler, pushed to rename four buildings in 2019 after a campus exhibit and report charged that their namesakes — all now-deceased university administrators during the 1930s and ’40s — supported residence hall segregation.

Regents rejected stripping their names from the buildings, citing their historical contributions, a discomfort with applying modern standards to the first half of the previous century, and concerns about the quality of a report the task force produced.


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The number one, primary function of giving buildings and streets names is wayfinding. People learn where Jones Street is located, and it is very confusing and inefficient to have to learn new street names every 20 years.

Similarly, when alumni return to campus, they want to feel that they are in familiar territory. They remember taking classes in Goldwin Smith Hall and Franklin Hall and don’t care if the people for which the buildings are named no longer are held in highest esteem. The University of Minnesota plan will create a drop-off in Alumni donations within 20 years of alumni graduation dates. Also, there will be a very big drop off in large donations motivated by building naming rights. Why should I donate to the University of Minnesota when I can get permanent naming rights to a building on the campus of every other college in the US?

University of Minnesota, already does act to keep its “names up to date.” TCF Bank is merging with Huntington Bank, so effective immediately, the UM football stadium gets a new name. When Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce becomes effective, will all of the Gates Halls be so promptly renamed?

Pillsbury Hall is the home of the UM English Dept. (The building was named for a Minnesota Governor.) It is on the national register of historic landmarks. To pay for the $36 million renovation, the UM Development Office is providing naming opportunities for different rooms in the restored building. So, you can see between building components and endowed chairs, the number of naming opportunities is not finite and there is no need to unname things after 20 years.

Erase the past, control the future.

henrybowman | July 9, 2021 at 11:54 pm

What happens when a honoree has his name attached to a building that becomes a notorious money pit, like MIT’s Stata Center? Can Ray Stata demand that the incompetent building be renamed after, say, an incompetent public figure, such as Rep. Hank Johnson? It would be unusually appropriate, for a building designed to appear to be in the process of capsizing, and which may someday actually physically capsize.