Several student groups at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. are demanding different buildings be renamed, saying the figures they’re named after were “slave owners, proponents of racial segregation and war criminals,” according to an email exclusively obtained by this reporter.
This reporter requested comments from the GW Student Association, the group pushing the petition, and GWU. No responses were received.
The GWSA also didn’t respond when asked if they are urging their school to be renamed as they push to cancel figures associated with the country’s dark past with slavery.
In the riots that ensued in the weeks following the tragic death of George Floyd, a famous bust of former President George Washington on GWU’s campus was toppled. Weeks later, the University released a delayed statement confirming the incident occurred and saying it “did not appear to be a targeted protest against the university, and there were no reported crowds on campus that night.”
Since then, student organizations have continued pushing for sweeping changes from the school’s administration. That includes this latest push to ditch monikers original to the school and to this country.
“On behalf of the Black Student Union, Black Defiance, Persist GW, SINAR (Students for Indigenous and Native American Rights), and Students Against Imperialism we put forth a document that not only lists the names but provides indisputable historical facts and consequences of the individuals in question,” the petition reads.
“For years, these buildings were named after slave owners, proponents of racial segregation and war criminals. It is time we sever ties with them and start anew. It is completely unfair to continue to ask students to attend lectures, play sports, and have them host events in buildings named after individuals who would have never wanted them inside. Student activists have been demanding the renaming of the buildings for years now and it is time we truly reckon with the issue and tackle it head first.”
Requesting accountability from GWU for its “role in racial segregation,” the groups’ petition seeks to push the school to reconsider the names on many buildings and hallways. Moreover, they’re seeking to rename the Colonial mascot who they say “inappropriately and inaccurately represents the students body. The school moniker severely impacts school spirit, and the experience of the student body at GW for the following reasons.”
“Firstly, George Washington was not a Colonial,” the groups said in their petition. “The term colonial was an insult utilized by mainland residents to belittle remote colony residents as a demoted social class. As commander of the Continental Army and a leader of the revolution to literally no longer be a colony, George Washington was if anything an anti-colonial. These facts have been verified by a leading scholar on campus of George Washington’s life and legacy, Professor Denver Brunsman.”
“Colonials were active purveyors of colonialism and were complicit in militarized and racialized violence, oppression, and hierarchy. Colonialism has been historically and contemporaneously built upon usurping land, labor, and autonomy from racialized communities through dehumanizing violence and suppression. The only occupants of a colony or colonized territory that were identified as Colonials were those with autonomy and power,” the petition stated.
“This excludes enslaved and indigenous communities,” it added. “The glorified and romanticized image of a white male Colonial normalizes white supremacist patriarchy.”
Additionally, the groups are demanding that The Cloyd Heck Marvin Center, who served as the President of the University between 1927 to 1959, Fulbright Hall, named after fmr. Sen. James William Fulbright, Madison Hall, named after Pres. James Madison, the Winston Churchill Center, named after the former British Prime Minister, Francis Scott Key Hall, named after the man who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Monroe Hall, named after President James Monroe all be renamed.
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