SUNY New Paltz President Donald P. Christian updated the campus community on the Hasbrouck Building Names project on Aug. 24, with the recommendation that the names on these buildings be removed and replaced. His position drew on his own experience with the process and the Diversity and Inclusion Council’s analysis and recommendation to change the names.
“I am strongly and fully persuaded that changing the names is the right path for our campus at this time,” said Christian in a campus memo. “I regard 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.”
One year ago, President Christian charged the Diversity and Inclusion Council with leading the process to review the names on six buildings in the Hasbrouck Complex, and to develop a recommendation either to retain the names or to rename these buildings.
The six campus buildings include Bevier Hall, Crispell Hall, Deyo Hall, DuBois Hall, Hasbrouck Dining Hall and Lefevre Hall. All are named for original Huguenot patentees who were the first European settlers in New Paltz in 1678. The earliest generations of these families in America owned slaves during the period of slavery in New York State.
The Diversity and Inclusion Council held multiple forums, educated the community about the College’s history, and solicited broad input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members, Huguenot descendants and Historic Huguenot Street leadership. They also studied how other colleges and universities have dealt with the legacy of slavery on their campuses.
“The Diversity and Inclusion Council reached its recommendation 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,” said Christian. “In addition, the report recommends, and I endorse, that we develop approaches to more fully tell our history, including the legacy of slavery and the indigenous people who originally settled here; and we develop alternative ways to recognize the many contributions of the Huguenots and their descendants.”
The authority to name buildings or change building names rests with the campus College Council and thereafter with the SUNY Board of Trustees. Christian has shared his recommendation with College Council members – including the President of the Student Association, who is a voting member.
Next, the College Council will review the D&I Council report and deliberate upon his recommendation.
“To fulfill their important role and out of respect for their authority, the College Council deserves appropriate space and time for that process,” said Christian. “Even as I know the community is eager for resolution, I ask that we continue to model the thoughtful approach to this complicated issue that you demonstrated so well last year.”