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Spring 2021 Naming & Renaming Referendum

On Tuesday, February 9th, 2021 the Student Assembly passed The Naming & Renaming Referendum Act which called for SA to release an referendum surveying the opinion of the student body on naming and renaming efforts concerning the Founding Fathers and other notable figures. On Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 the Elections Commission released several referendum questions to graduate and undergraduate students. Below are the results of those questions as well as the official recommendation from the Student Assembly sent to administration on Monday, February 22nd, 2021.

Statement of Grievances on BOV Action Regarding PNR

TRanscript of SA President's BOV remarks concerning Naming & Renaming

Audio of SA President's BOV remarks concerning Naming & Renaming

Referenda Questions
Full Referendum
Preamble

“In September 2020, the Board of Visitors passed the principles of naming and remaining campus spaces. The discussion regarding honoring our Founding Fathers on campus is complex. They have fought for our independence, created our governing documents, and built the foundation of the country. Their contributions to our history are irreplaceable and unforgettable. Simultaneously, our Founding Fathers have ingrained the suppression of race, gender, and sexuality into our institutions. The values they had embraced in their time actively advocate for turmoil and violence in our time. The University and the men who were in charge of it acquired their wealth from participating directly or indirectly in the slave trade.

How do we confront this dual reality? The Student Assembly would like to gauge the opinions of the student body as we chart the course to reconciliation and collect proprietary research to best inform the actions of The Naming & Renaming Working Group. We seek to understand the balance between glorification and representation; this survey is about content control, not erasure.


Referenda Preamble & Questions
Do you think William & Mary should institute a cap on the number of awards, spaces, and iconography (i.e. statues, busts, etc.) that commemorate an individual?
Table on general space, landmarks, and iconography cap
Answer Choice
Votes Received
Percentage of Votes
Yes, an individual should have a cap on the spaces commemorating them 1465 56.69%
No, an individual should not have a cap on the number of spaces commemorating them 832 32.19%
Undecided 287 11.1%
 
Do you think William & Mary should institute a cap on the number of awards, spaces, and iconography that commemorate a Founding Father/Framer?
Table on Founding Fathers spaces, landmarks, and iconography cap
Answer Choice
Votes Received
Percentage of Votes
Yes, a Founding Father should have a cap on spaces commemorating them 1520 58.82%
No, no one should have a cap on the number of spaces commemorating them 591 22.8%
No, the Founding Fathers are a special case and should not have a cap 302 11.68%
Undecided 171 6.61%
 
Do you think the standard evaluation procedure for naming and renaming at William & Mary should examine awards, spaces, and iconography named after the Founding Fathers/Framers?
Table on Founding Fathers evaluation procedure
Answer Choice
Votes Received
Percentage of Votes
Yes 1641 63.5%
No 729 28.21%
Undecided 214 8.28%
 
Do you think we should commemorate the action or the individual for naming and renaming purposes on campus? (i.e. Declaration of Independence Hall versus Jefferson Hall)
Table on action v. individual
Answer Choice
Votes Received
Percentage of Votes
Action 750 29.02%
Both, they are linked 631 24.41%
Individual 514 19.89%
Neither, they are linked 388 15.01%
Undecided 301 11.64%
 

 

To add more context to the previous questions, the next two questions offer examples with more specificity that we would like your feedback on.

 

Lyon Gardiner Tyler was a professor at William & Mary, served as its 17th president from 1888 to 1919, and under his presidency the college began admitting white women. However, he was also a staunch advocate for Jim Crow in the United States. In many of his writings, such as A Confederate Catechism (1920), he claimed that enslavement had been beneficial to Africans, and the people of African descent, having supposedly, in Tyler’s words, “civilized” them. His writing and thoughts rationalized the denial of civil and human rights to African Americans in the post-Reconstruction United States and are still disseminated today by white nationalist movements in the United States. See the full verbatim text on the William & Mary’s website.

Do you think Lyon Gardiner Tyler should have a space, landmark, or department dedicated to him on campus?
Table on Lyon Gardiner Tyler
Answer Choice
Votes Received
Percentage of Votes
No 1177 45.54%
Probably Not 691 26.74%
Undecided 205 7.93%
Probably 227 8.87%
Yes 284 10.99%
 

 

The following quote is by an alumnus who is prominently represented on campus: “A black after hard labor through the day, will be induced by the slightest amusements to sit up till midnight, or later, though knowing he must be out with the first dawn of the morning…In general, their existence appears to participate more of sensation than reflection…I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind…This unfortunate difference of color, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these people...When freed, he is to be removed beyond the reach of mixture.”
Do you think the person who wrote the above quote contributes to a hostile environment for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color on campus?
Table on quote
Answer Choice
Votes Received
Percentage of Votes
Yes 1445 55.92%
Probably 398 15.40%
Undecided 202 7.81%
Probably Not 186 7.19%
No 353 13.66%