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University System of Georgia bucks pressure to change historic names associated with slavery

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The University System of Georgia announced Monday that it would not proceed with recommendations from a naming advisory group that the USG hired to review, study and recommend changes to buildings and colleges on their campuses statewide.

The group’s governing board rejected the Naming Advisory Group’s suggestion to rename more than 70 buildings and colleges named after people who supported slavery and white supremacy.

Instead, the university has opted to learn from the history of their institutions so that they can “employ strength and diversity” in the naming of future buildings– an outcome that is uncommon as many woke leaders and activists across the country aim to erase evidence of some of America’s more unflattering history.

The NAG, headed by Albany State University President Marion Fedrick, began its review of the university system’s 26 campuses in June 2020. They reviewed almost 900 buildings and schools named after people, companies or landmarks, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

The final 181-page report recommended a name change for 75 buildings or colleges, and it also recommended adding context– to be determined by the college or university– about the names of 21 other buildings.

The Board of Regents for USG, however, ultimately rejected the report’s suggestions in a statement on Monday.

“The Board of Regents is grateful to Albany State University President Marion Fedrick and the members of the naming advisory group for their diligent work on this complex matter,” the statement read.

“The Board recognizes the importance of the issue and the variety of views held on it. The University System of Georgia contains over 3,800 named buildings and colleges. The intent of the advisory group was to better understand the names that mark our buildings and colleges, recognizing there would likely be a number of individuals who engaged in behaviors or held beliefs that do not reflect or represent our values today,” the statement continued, “Understanding the history of names fulfills a knowledge mission that has guided USG for the past 90 years.”

The USG acknowledged the role of history is to instruct a better future.

“The purpose of history is to instruct. 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. We acknowledge, understand and respect there are many viewpoints on this matter. Going forward, the Board is committed to naming actions that reflect the strength and energy of Georgia’s diversity,” the statement concluded.

A member of the advisory group who compiled the report for USG was disappointed in their ultimate decision.

“I am very disappointed in the statement that they put out that they were not going to take any action, because we did a lot of work in good faith, after they had indicated that they wanted a report and some recommendations as far as the naming of buildings and colleges in the university system,” retired state appellate judge Herbert E. Phipps told The Washington Post.

Kay Apfel

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