Board of Trustees votes to remove the Huxley name from the College of the Environment
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Dear WWU Campus Community,
At its December 9, 2021 meeting the Board of Trustees made decisions regarding the recommendations of the Legacy Review Task Force. In the Report and Recommendations submitted in June, the Task Force suggested that the President and the Board of Trustees consider removing the names from four named features of campus: Huxley College of the Environment, Mathes Hall, Haggard Hall, and the Viking Union.
We are appreciative of the work of the Legacy Review Task Force embodied in this report, and for the research contributions made by Western Libraries’ Heritage Resources. We also want to thank the Western students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other external stakeholders who provided their input to the process.
Naming or de-naming a building or a college is an important decision that requires careful consideration and should be undertaken with a thorough consideration of all the circumstances and potential consequences. It is essential that we look at the detailed evidence about the name associated with a campus feature and the context and circumstances that led to the decision.
The Board of Trustees and the President have thoroughly reviewed the Task Force report, the research and resources gathered during the process, and the diverse input and perspectives contributed. Starting in August 2021 the Board has had several public discussions on these materials, received written and oral comment in response to the report, and requested additional research from Heritage Resources, all of which has been posted on the Legacy Review website. In October an Ad Hoc committee of the Board was created to more deeply review the information on this matter, and as a result, the committee produced a set of documents and recommendations, referred to as Findings of Fact, for consideration by the full Board. These documents were posted online with the December 9th Board of Trustees agenda and are now posted to the Legacy Review website as well.
Based upon this comprehensive assessment, the Board of Trustees has decided to remove the Huxley name from the College of the Environment (changing the name to College of the Environment); to retain the names on Haggard Hall and Mathes Hall; and to direct the University to conduct a more thorough assessment of the Viking name in the broader context of the University mascot. The rationale behind these decisions is captured in the Board of Trustees Resolutions and findings of fact documents which are posted on the Legacy Review website.
The Board has also asked that the University policy on naming buildings, facilities, and other features be updated and revised to include the naming of colleges.
We know that the reaction to the decision to remove the Huxley name will be mixed, ranging from a sense of relief to a sense of disappointment that something essential to the College’s identity has been lost.
The College of the Environment has been an important part of Western’s excellence and history for more than 50 years, but the Huxley name has not been the root of that excellence. That has been due to the leadership of faculty seeking to address critical environmental issues and bridge the gap between curriculum and real-world impact; passionate students eager to be the difference they want to see in the world; and alumni who are making that difference in every sector of society. It has also been due to a spirit of innovation and visionary leadership. If anyone can define what inclusive, impactful environmental education should look like in the 21st century, and lead inquiry into important societal issues, such as climate change and environmental management, it is the faculty, staff, students, and alumni of the college. We hope that the College, and the institution as a whole, can take this as an opportunity to accelerate dialogue about how to advance inclusive student success and foster lasting changes to curriculum, policies, and practices.
We want to note that this process has not just been about evaluating building or college names, nor is it an isolated undertaking. It is part of a broader effort to create and sustain an institutional environment that honestly acknowledges Western’s past and provides a springboard for greater inclusivity, equity, and success for all going forward. It is also about exercising the capacities and expressing the values that make our universities a model for inquiry, including close attention to scientific evidence, sound reasoning, and humility about the limits of our perspectives and the dangers of overestimating them. We acknowledge that has been a difficult process; it is now our collective responsibility to work with all members of our internal community and external stakeholders to process the change resulting from the Board’s decisions and to better position the University for future success.
Sabah Randhawa John M. Meyer
President Chair, WWU Board of Trustees