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UVA Board of Visitors approves changes to historic landscape

university of virginia uvaUVA will take steps to contextualize the contributions of founder Thomas Jefferson, remove a statue honoring George Rogers Clark, and remove the names of former Confederate leaders from the education and law schools.

The move comes with the approval of the UVA Board of Visitors, which voted Friday to approve a series of five recommendations from UVA’s Racial Equity Task Force regarding changes to UVA’s historic landscape.

The approved changes include:

  1. Renaming the Curry School of Education and Human Development as the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development. The revision drops the name of J.L.M. Curry, who, while an advocate for free public education, was a slaveholder, Confederate leader and opposed integrated schools.
  2. Contextualizing the statue of Thomas Jefferson on the north side of the Rotunda. The Board’s resolution acknowledged Jefferson’s contributions to the University and the nation, but also pointed out that he owned slaves and used slave labor at UVA, in direct contradiction to the ideals of liberty and equality he professed.
  3. Removal of the George Rogers Clark statue, as well as the beginning of a process, working with Indigenous leaders, to determine a suitable place for the statue off Grounds.
  4. Rededication, if possible, or removal, if rededication is not possible, of the Hume Memorial Wall, known as the Whispering Wall, which is a Confederate memorial honoring Confederate soldier and Virginia politician Frank Hume. UVA’s Committee on Names will consider whether rededication or removal is appropriate and provide a final recommendation at a future meeting.
  5. Removing the name Withers from Withers-Brown Hall at the UVA School of Law. The name previously honored Henry Malcolm Withers, another Confederate leader and slaveholder. The building will now be designated simply as Brown Hall.

“My view, and I know this is shared by my entire leadership team, is that this moment offers us a unique opportunity to take action that will leave a lasting and positive impact on the university we all love,” UVA President Jim Ryan said Friday. “Actions that will make this place more clearly and obviously welcoming to all, and where all have an opportunity to thrive.”

The recommendations stem from a broader report from the Racial Equity Task Force, which Ryan created in early June to recommend actions to improve racial equity at UVA, amid national protests against racism, police brutality and longstanding inequity. Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Kevin McDonald; Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy Dean Ian Solomon; and Barbara Brown Wilson, assistant professor of urban and environmental planning and faculty director of the UVA Equity Center, led the task force.

The Board of Visitors also endorsed several other goals and recommendations stated in the report.

The goals include:

  • Doubling the number of underrepresented faculty at UVA by 2030;
  • Reviewing the tenure and promotion process;
  • Developing a plan and a time horizon for having a student population that better reflects the racial and socioeconomic demographics of the Commonwealth of Virginia and, as much as feasible, of the nation;
  • Encouraging related organizations to develop a scholarship program for the descendants of enslaved laborers who worked to build and maintain the University;
  • Reviewing policies regarding staff hiring, wages, retention, promotion and procurement, in order to ensure equity;
  • Ensuring that the division of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Community Partnerships has sufficient resources to do their work;
  • Developing a series of educational programs around racial equity and anti-racism, including leadership development programs focused on equity, including racial equity;
  • Endowing the key programmatic elements of the Carter Woodson Institute and providing funding to create more faculty positions;
  • Exploring potential initiatives to recognize and support Native American students and Native American studies;
  • Thoroughly reviewing University Police practices and policies to ensure fair, equitable and transparent practices reflecting 21st-century policing principles and developing relevant training for officers and supervisors;
  • Forming a Department of Safety and Security Advisory Council.

The most recent changes, and the task force’s work, build on decades of activism and scholarship by UVA students, faculty, staff and community members and recent efforts to recontextualize UVA’s historic landscape, including, for example, the completion of the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers, the renaming of Ruffner Hall to Ridley Hall and Barringer Hall to Francis Collins Hall, a new dorm named after civil rights leader and beloved UVA professor Julian Bond and other additions to UVA’s historic landscape.

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