Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming
In November 2020, President Julie Sullivan created the Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming to consider amending the current University policy on naming with a focus on the potential need for a coherent set of principles to use when considering the renaming of a building, program, or other asset at the University.
In May 2021, the Committee created a Final Report on Principles for Renaming, which was approved by President Sullivan and the Board of Trustees. This Final Report will become an amendment to the University policy on naming.
Read the Final Report of the Committee to Establish Principles for Renaming, approved May 2021 by President Sullivan and the Board of Trustees.
About the Committee, its Purpose, and Applying the Principles
The charge of the committee was:
To articulate a set of principles that can guide the University of St. Thomas in decisions about whether to remove a historical name from a building or other prominent structure or space on campus and/or take other related actions to address the naming.
Such principles should not be specific to particular renaming questions. Rather, the principles should endure for years to come and be broad and complete enough to apply to a range of future renaming considerations.
In light of that charge and compelled by the University’s mission and convictions, the Committee organized a series of listening sessions to seek input from a broad range of stakeholders and community members.
Renaming is a complex and significant process that requires careful consideration of the range of available information. The University begins with a presumption of retaining an existing name and recognizes that only under extraordinary circumstances will renaming be undertaken. While each case will be different, the University believes it is critical to develop a set of principles to guide each fact-specific inquiry.
The committee reviewed scholarship on the history and theory of naming and renaming; see the bibliography of selected works the committee has reviewed. The members also examined how similar institutions have addressed the issue of renaming.
Based on these discoveries, the committee then sought input from the St. Thomas community via listening sessions and written input. A draft report was posted on this site for public review and feedback, and the final report was reviewed and approved by President Julie Sullivan and the Board of Trustees.
The University had an existing policy for naming its “assets” (buildings, programs, spaces, etc.). A primary criterion is that the “Naming...is consistent with the mission, convictions and vision of St. Thomas.” Assets are named:
- To honor a person/persons/organization for their “extraordinary contributions or service to St. Thomas” or their “meritorious qualities” consistent with our mission,
- To recognize a person/persons/organization for their philanthropic generosity to the University.
The policy recognized that the University can remove or change the name of an asset when it “becomes aware of past conduct by the donor or honoree, that reflects unfavorably upon the good name, goodwill, reputation or image of St. Thomas.”
Over the past several years many Catholic universities, and other universities, have gone through the painful process of renaming assets as they became aware of past conduct by a donor or honoree. In Catholic institutions the issues have been the owning and selling slaves, racist statements, sexual abuse, and the mishandling of sexual abuse cases. Most of these institutions did not have a policy to address the process of reconsidering, reviewing, and the possible renaming of assets when the challenges arose.
Now that renaming principles and procedures have been established, a separate committee or group of advisers with relevant knowledge and expertise will be appointed to consider renaming proposals and make a recommendation on renaming and/or other actions based on the application of the principles.
Understanding and acknowledging our history will be part of our decision-making process along with clear transparency about our present values.
The Committee included representatives from the St. Thomas community: students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni
The Members of the Committee
Gregory Sisk, J.D.
Faculty; Professor, School of Law
Dr. Yohuru Williams
Faculty and Staff; Distinguished University Chair and Professor of History and Founding Director of the Racial Justice Initiative
Judge Wilhelmina (Mimi) Wright
Trustee; U.S. District Court
Amy GoldmanTrustee; Chairman and Executive Director, GHR Foundation
Dr. David Williard
Faculty; History Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Bernie Brady
Faculty; Theology Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Jayne Sommers
Faculty; Professor, School of Education
Joe Plante ’86
Staff; Associate Vice President, University Advancement
Staff; Title IX Coordinator, Office of the President
MayKao Y. Hang
Staff; VP Strategic Initiatives, Founding Dean of the Morrison Family College of Health
Current Undergraduate Student; '21
Current Graduate Student; '17, J.D. '22
Administrative support (non-voting)