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Design Imperatives & Principles

The Working Group on Principles for Naming and Renaming (PNR) at William & Mary drafted the following Design Imperatives (Strategic Goals) and Principles (Criteria). The group's initial draft, shared with President Katherine Rowe and subsequently posted for public comments, has now been revised to reflect robust community input. The Board of Visitors approved the design imperatives and principles at its September 2020 meeting.

We begin with recognition, as the public comments made clear, of the deep affection for William & Mary – for what the university has represented to our nation and our world, and the hope for what it can become. We acknowledge and embrace the architectural significance and appeal of our present campus that draws so many to work, study and visit. At the same time, we acknowledge in equally clear terms that William & Mary has not been welcoming and inclusive for all. The PNR work is part of the university’s broader effort to address this fact. As William & Mary takes steps to embrace a more accurate and inclusive history, we expect discomfort to be part of the process. The work will not be easy, but it will be necessary. It will be pursued with tremendous care and respect, and in consultation with all, most notably with the marginalized communities that it directly affects. We share the following Design Imperatives and Principles in support of a more welcoming environment for all who have been, who are now and who will be part of the W&M community to come.

Design Imperatives

Part of W&M campus design processes

1. The campus buildings and landscape should help to educate

As heard in every Listening Session, buildings and spaces should include full and frank historical context – using words and images – that provides more explanation and that corrects incomplete or passed-over versions of W&M's history while our knowledge of history grows and changes.

2. The campus buildings and landscape should affirm complexity

Names of buildings and spaces should represent W&M's broad and complex history. To recover more voices and stories that represent our past, it is necessary to commit to powerful historical work, in all of its complexity.

3. The campus buildings and landscape should promote honest and clear self-reflection of the university's history

This work will be unwavering, to openly and clearly acknowledge the contributions of those who have gone unrecognized and those whose legacies impeded the nation's promise of universal human rights and equal protection under the law.

Principles for Naming and Renaming
1. W&M's Naming and Renaming process must represent the university's diverse constituencies

W&M's review process for Naming and Renaming (N&R) shall be clear, follow established guidelines, be applied consistently and include input from diverse constituencies.

2. Names on buildings or spaces should represent the present mission and values of William & Mary

When considering the naming or renaming after a person, William & Mary will examine the person's principal legacy in light of multiple criteria. These should include their actions during their lifetime, and, most significantly, their principal legacy in the present. The history and legacy of the university must be appropriately chronicled and explained. To demonstrate William & Mary's commitment to inclusion, equity and justice, attention should be focused on our present values of belonging, curiosity, excellence, flourishing, integrity, respect and service.

3. Naming or changing names of buildings or spaces should contribute to the increase in diversity of commemorations across campus

The university landscape will embrace diverse individuals and perspectives across a broad spectrum of differences (i.e., race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.). Naming and renaming provide unique opportunities to foster a more welcoming, equitable, and inclusive campus environment.

4. The decision to rename a building or space identified with an individual, cause or an historical era should meet a high standard

The process of renaming (and naming) must be done only after undertaking thorough and comprehensive research and deliberation. That process will take into account the present mission and values of the university.

5. The determination of whether an individual's name should be attached to or removed from a campus building or space will follow thorough research

In evaluating cases of potential N&R, we will define categories used to identify legacies created by an individual, such as civil rights leader or intellectual leader. Recommendations for renaming of buildings and spaces must be accompanied by full documentation of personal attributes and actions that weigh in favor of or against renaming.

6. Substantive and extensive research is critical to aid in and validate the selection of names

All research undertaken must adhere to the highest academic standards. This process will include consultation with others, including university schools, departments, units, affected communities, etc. The university may also consult with historically linked indigenous tribes, local governments and cultural institutions such as the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation or Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

7. The campus landscape should be curated holistically, as part of the Campus Master Plan

No building, structure or space should be considered in isolation. Coordination of the N&R process with the Campus Master Plan is essential. The interrelationship of names across campus should reflect respect for the the architectural integrity of the Campus Master Plan, and consider the role of the name (honorific, memorialization, etc.).

8. Where appropriate, a name should be relevant to the space, program or unit where it is being used

A desired goal, where feasible and appropriate, is to align a potential name with the functional use or occupancy of the space. The N&R process should be coordinated with the respective school, department, unit and University Advancement. Consideration must be made when the function of the campus space is changed.

9. Building signs should clearly identify who a building is named for and why

The university should provide signage, digital content and archival resources about the history and context of named spaces. W&M should strategize how building names, signage and gallery spaces present different opportunities to honor or provide historical context about individuals from the past – with particular attention to how these people reflect university values today. As a vital component of N&R decisions, contextualization serves to explain the significance of past and present campus design.

Procedures should be established for future N&R actions

The Board should establish procedures for naming and renaming. As examples, it should decide whether a standing or ad hoc committee should be appointed, develop guidelines based on the above Principles regarding structures (including statues) that are removed or repurposed and create a process to petition for naming or renaming of campus spaces, buildings and structures.

A final report (pdf) from the Naming & Renaming Working Group was presented to the president at the February 2021 Board of Visitors meeting. President Rowe submitted a memo with recommended next steps for naming and renaming (pdf).