SUNY New Paltz Looking to Change Names of Buildings That Honor Slave Owners

State University of New York at New Paltz President Donald P. Christian has released a statement recommending that the university change the names of six buildings which are currently named after the first settling families of New Paltz. During the period of time when slavery was legal in the State of New York, these six Huguenot families owned slaves. Last year, President Christian tasked the Diversity and Inclusion Council with evaluating the names of the buildings and if they should be changed or not.

The Diversity and Inclusion Council held forums and received input regarding the issue from students, faculty, staff, alumni, Huguenot descendants, community members, and the Historic Huguenot Street director. They also examined how other universities have dealt with the history of slavery on their campuses. The council reached the conclusion “that the building names be removed and replaced while recognizing that there will never be unanimity of opinion on such a deeply rooted and complex topic.” They also suggested the university continue to look for more ways in which to tell the legacy of slavery and of the indigenous people who originally settled in New Paltz, while developing alternative methods of honoring the Huguenot families and their descendants’ contributions. The council’s report can be viewed here.

President Christian said that he is “strongly and fully persuaded that changing the names is the right path for our campus at this time” and he “regards making such a change now as consistent with our community values of fostering a diverse and inclusive learning environment, including taking active anti-racist steps such as this.”

The decision to rename buildings is up to the College Council. Following their approval, the Board of Trustees will make the final call regarding whether the building names will be changed.

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