|Statement: SUNY board votes to remove names of slave-owning Hudson Valley pioneers from New Paltz campus buildings, renaming them with local geographical place names.|
|A message from President Donald P. Christian:|
March 20, 2019
President Christian responds to SUNY Board of Trustees vote today in favor of removing and replacing Hasbrouck Building names
Dear Members of the Campus Community,
At today’s meeting, the SUNY Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a resolution to remove the names from the Hasbrouck Complex buildings on our campus and replace them with Peregrine Dining Hall and Shawangunk, Ashokan, Awosting, Mohonk, and Minnewaska for the residence halls.
The SUNY New Paltz College Council gave me the authority to assign the names to each building. The names will be as follows:
Bevier Hall will become Minnewaska Hall
Crispell Hall will become Ashokan Hall
Deyo Hall will become Awosting Hall
Dubois Hall will become Mohonk Hall
Lefevre Hall will become Shawangunk Hall
Hasbrouck Dining Hall will become Peregrine Dining Hall
The names are assigned to mirror the actual locations of these local geographic features. For example, Crispell Hall will become Ashokan Hall, because the Ashokan reservoir and center are the northern-most of these five geographic features. Lefevre Hall will now be Shawangunk Hall, because the Shawangunk Ridge is the eastern-most of these features.
The former Hasbrouck Complex will be known as Peregrine Complex.
As a campus community, we have engaged in a year-and-a-half-long process involving student government, faculty governance, administrators, College Council members and Huguenot descendants. People listened respectfully to each other across different opinions. Some changed their minds. Others did not but grew to recognize the depth and complexity of this issue. Of course, some people are unhappy with the decision, and they may remain so. We can make room for such viewpoint differences even as we try to bridge them.
The building name changes mean a lot to our campus. Given our mission and purpose, the educational impact of this process and its outcomes will be long-lasting and equally meaningful. I regard this as a historic moment for the College, and I am grateful to the campus community for serving as a role model for civil discourse on a complex, contentious issue. Here is a link to my comments today to the Board of Trustees.
The current names will remain on the buildings for a while longer to ensure day-to-day functioning and safety measures for residents and the campus community. The new names will be effective at the start of fall semester 2019. In the meantime, we will be updating signage, maps, directories, fire safety systems and sharing these changes with outside agencies. We want to give these matters the time and attention they deserve to avoid confusion or chaos and plan a renaming ceremony this fall. Thank you for your patience as we move closer to this goal.
Later this spring, I will receive recommendations from a working group of faculty, staff, and students who are developing ideas for a contemplative space on campus to present a more complete and honest history of the College and our community for future students and visitors. That includes the history and lasting impacts of slavery, especially northern slavery, the contributions of enslaved Africans and their descendants, the history and legacy of indigenous people before and after European settlement, and the many positive contributions of Huguenot descendants to civic and educational life in New Paltz and beyond. We will announce to the campus community the date, time and location of the renaming ceremony as soon as it is confirmed.
Donald P. Christian
A presentation by President Donald P. Christian:
March 20, 2019
President Christian's presentation to the SUNY Board of Trustees
Good afternoon. I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the SUNY New Paltz building names resolution before you and thank you in advance for your consideration.
We have engaged in a year-and-a-half-long process to review the names on five residence halls and a dining hall on our campus that have a direct linkage to slavery in New Paltz, dating back to the very first Huguenot settlers in our community. My decision to open this door came on the heels of the violent demonstrations in Charlottesville in summer 2017 that brought into sharper focus longstanding and increasingly volatile racial divides and inequities in our nation. Our effort also coincided with increased national discourse about statues or building names that memorialize slavery in America, in the North as well as the South. The time was right to take on this issue.
The Huguenots and their descendants are prominent in the history of the Hudson Valley and our campus. Indeed, SUNY New Paltz likely would not exist without their efforts. This meant that our process would undoubtedly entail controversy. Historic Huguenot Street is a registered National Historic Landmark in New Paltz. We worked closely with colleagues there to include descendants in our discussions and to respect their concerns, while prioritizing our institutional interests and the well-being of current and future students. We also sought to identify areas of alignment between the evolving educational programming at Historic Huguenot Street and our educational goals.
Campus records from the early 1950s clearly document that the names were originally assigned to campus buildings explicitly to recognize the first Huguenot settlers in New Paltz. All were slave owners. This is an essential point, because it counters the long-held view that the building names honored the long history of generations of descendants during their 350 years in the Hudson Valley.
I have kept Chancellor Johnson and Chairman McCall apprised of our process from the start. I received early advice from Chairman McCall. I shared his advice with our community at the beginning of our process, and it helped set the stage for our success. He told me, and this is nearly a direct quote: “you should let people know that this discussion will likely draw attention from audiences beyond the university, and others will be watching the process and its outcome. This is an opportunity for your campus to model problem-solving and community building that is sadly elusive in much of contemporary society.” End quote.
Our process fulfilled that purpose in every way I might have hoped. People with different viewpoints listened respectfully to each other. Some changed their minds. Others did not but grew to recognize the depth and complexity of this issue. Of course, some people are unhappy with the decision, and may remain so. We can make room for such viewpoint differences even as we try to bridge them.
Our community focused on evidence-based arguments, while not dismissing the emotion that enters consideration of a topic like slavery and its contemporary racial and economic legacies. Student government, faculty governance, administrators and College Council members engaged each other in one of the most rewarding examples of shared governance I’ve seen. Our students were inspired to be part of this process, proud to be part of a campus that was willing to take on such a thorny issue and learned much about how change can happen.
In addition to the resolution before you, we are in the process of developing ways to tell our campus and regional history more fully and honestly than we have – just as Historic Huguenot Street is doing. We heard from students that we can do a better job of educating them about the history and lasting impacts of slavery, especially northern slavery, the contributions of enslaved Africans and their descendants, the history of indigenous people before and after European settlement, and the many positive contributions of Huguenot descendants to civic and educational life in New Paltz and beyond.
The building name changes mean a lot to our campus. Given our mission and purpose, the educational impact of this process and its outcomes will be long-lasting and equally meaningful. Thank you for your time.