The Department of Government endorses William & Mary's decision to consider renaming campus buildings. We urge the working group charged with leading that effort to rename Tyler Hall. The Department is committed to creating an inclusive campus in which all of our students, staff, and faculty feel welcome and are valued.
On Friday, July 10, 2020, Department Chair Sue Peterson sent the letter below to our undergraduate students and Dr. Warren Buck, in his capacity as chair of the group working on developing principles for the naming and renaming of buildings and spaces on campus. The Department encourages the working group to rename Tyler Hall.
Dear Dr. Buck,
I write to you as Chair of the Department of Government, which is housed in Tyler Hall. Consistent with President Rowe’s commitment to “revisit whom and what we commemorate,” the Government faculty ask that the working group on the naming of buildings and other spaces at William & Mary rename Tyler Hall.
The Department recently issued the following statement: “The Department of Government endorses William & Mary's decision to consider renaming campus buildings. We urge the working group charged with leading that effort to rename Tyler Hall. The Department is committed to creating an inclusive campus in which all of our students, staff, and faculty feel welcome and are valued.”
We deliberately kept the statement brief and did not provide specific reasons for our request to rename Tyler Hall, because there is some ambiguity about exactly who the building is named for: President John G. Tyler, the tenth president of the United States, or Lyon Gardiner Tyler Sr., President Tyler’s son and the 17th president of the College of William & Mary. Many university publications—including several W&M news articles about the move by the Departments of Government and Economics and the Public Policy and International Relations Programs to Tyler Hall—refer to the building as John Tyler Hall, although other sources, including Swem’s Special Collections, refer to it simply as Tyler Hall. An article by the Daily Press commemorating the renovation of, and our move to, the building suggests that it was named for both John G. and Lyon Gardiner Tyler. There was a bust of John G. Tyler in the old Tyler Hall, but the renovated building briefly included a display of Lyon Gardiner Tyler's portrait and words ("Stay true to the standards of the past").
Regardless of which Tyler the building was named for, William & Mary should act quickly to rename Tyler Hall. President John G. Tyler was an enslaver, a secessionist, and a member of the Confederate House of Representatives. His son Lyon Gardiner Tyler Sr. authored A Confederate Catechism, which claimed that, “[b]oth from the standpoint of the Constitution and sound statesmanship, it was not slavery, but the vindictive, intemperate anti-slavery movement that was at the bottom of all the troubles.” The pamphlet remains popular among white supremacist groups.
Neither Tyler’s legacy is consistent with the Department’s or the University’s commitment to creating an inclusive campus where all students, staff, and faculty feel welcome and valued. We urge you to act quickly and select a name that more accurately reflects these important values.
Chair, Department of Government