Messages to the Community

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  • Sept. 23, 2022: Board Action on School of Law Name

    Dear Members of the University Community:

    We are writing to communicate an action taken by the Board of Trustees at its meeting today and arising from the Board’s adoption of Naming Principles in March 2022. The Board voted unanimously to change the official name of the law school from the T.C. Williams School of Law to the University of Richmond School of Law. The law school has been referred to as the University of Richmond School of Law for more than 20 years. This decision to formally adopt that name was made in accordance with Principle 6 of the Naming Principles, which states:

    No building, program, professorship, or other entity at the University should be named for a person who directly engaged in the trafficking and/or enslavement of others or openly advocated for the enslavement of people. 

    As many of you are aware, the Board adopted the Naming Principles as formulated by the Naming Principles Commission last academic year. That commission, with student, staff, faculty, alumni, and trustee representation, as well as external expertise, recommended the principles to the Board after an extensive and inclusive process in which more than 7,500 members of the University community provided their perspectives. The purpose of the principles is to provide a clear and consistent framework to guide decisions about naming and removal or modification of names for named entities at Richmond.  

    To provide some context, Thomas C. Williams, Sr. (1831–1889), known as T.C. Williams, operated tobacco businesses in Richmond and elsewhere in Virginia, including Patterson & Williams and Thomas C. Williams & Co. He attended Richmond College (1846–49), was a Richmond College trustee from 1881 until his death in 1889, and was a benefactor of the institution. In 1890, Williams’s family made a memorial gift of $25,000, creating an endowment that established a strong foundation for the law program’s development. Several of his children — one of whom succeeded Williams on the Board of Trustees until 1929 — also provided generous support to the University and the law school. In 1920, when Richmond College was re-chartered as the University of Richmond, the law school began consistently to use the name T.C. Williams School of Law. 

    Recently located government records dating from 1857 to 1863, and a newspaper notice from 1864, document Williams’s involvement in enslavement as an individual and through businesses in which he had direct ownership and an active management role. These records include the 1860 U.S. Federal Census Slave Schedule, which enumerates 35 enslaved men and boys under the name of Patterson & Williams in the Richmond area; personal property tax records from several Virginia localities that show Williams’s businesses being taxed on 25 to 40 enslaved persons in those years; and personal property tax records showing Williams as an individual being taxed on three enslaved persons. The newspaper notice placed by Thomas C. Williams & Co. advertises a reward for the return of two men enslaved by the company, Todd and Alex, who had recently escaped its Danville-area farm. 

    Upon review of this information and given the clarity of the evidence, the Board acted expeditiously in accordance with the Naming Principles.

    We recognize that some may be disappointed or disagree with this decision. We also recognize the role the Williams family has played here and respect the full and complete history of the institution. Consistent with Principle 9 of the Naming Principles, we will preserve and make accessible a full historical record. 

    It is important to note that the mission of our School of Law remains the same — excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service. We are grateful to all students, staff, faculty, alumni, and friends who have contributed, and continue to contribute, to advancing this important work.


    President Hallock and Board of Trustees

  • Sept. 6, 2022: Name Removal Review Advisory Committee

    Dear Members of the University Community,

    On March 28, 2022, the University’s Board of Trustees and I wrote to you that the Board had adopted a set of Naming Principles as recommended by the Naming Principles Commission and renamed six campus buildings. At that time, we also communicated that we broadly agreed with the Commission’s suggestion to establish a University committee to consider and make recommendations to the Board regarding future requests. We shared that I would develop a charge and procedures for the committee and appoint its membership. I have now done so.

    The Name Removal Review Advisory Committee will be chaired by Dean of the School of Professional and Continuing Studies Jamelle Wilson and will include student, staff, faculty, alumni, and Trustee representation. The full roster can be found here.

    This advisory committee is charged with: 1) considering requests, specifically referred to it by the President and the Board of Trustees, for the removal of a name from a University building, professorship, scholarship, program, or other named entity for reasons consistent with the Naming Principles, and 2) making a recommendation to the Board of Trustees about name removal in those cases. Consistent with the Naming Principles, the Board of Trustees will make final decisions.

    You can find the Committee’s full charge and procedures here and information on submitting a request for consideration here.

    Thank you so much to the members of our community who have agreed to serve on this Committee.

    Kevin F. Hallock

  • March 28, 2022: Board of Trustees Adopts Naming Principles Recommendations, Removes Names of Six Campus Buildings

    Dear Members of the University Community:

    We are writing to communicate actions taken by the Board of Trustees to adopt Naming Principles, and in accordance with the principles, to remove the names of six campus buildings.

    As you know, the Naming Principles Commission completed its work last week and provided its final recommendations to us and the University community. The Board met on Saturday to consider the recommendations.

    Naming Principles Commission Process

    Last spring, the Board suspended the decisions relating to Ryland Hall and Freeman Hall and undertook a broad, inclusive process to inform naming decisions. Soon after, the Board created the Naming Principles Commission to develop and recommend principles to guide future decisions about naming and removal or modification of names for buildings, professorships, programs, and other named entities at Richmond.  The Commission comprised student, staff, faculty, alumni, Trustee, and external expert representation.

    Over the past year, the Commission undertook a thorough review of naming issues, seeking to engage every member of the University community in the process. Through a Gallup survey, listening sessions, letters, e-mails, and individual discussions, more than 7,500 students, staff, faculty, alumni, and parents shared their opinions, suggestions, and experiences.

    The passionate and thoughtful engagement of so many in this process has been extremely valuable, and we are grateful. The widest possible range of views were shared, and the Commission and the Board devoted significant time to careful review of all perspectives. In February, the Commission released an Interim Report and Draft Recommendations. At the Board’s subsequent meeting on February 25, Commission members discussed the draft recommendations and the process that informed their development. Student, staff, faculty, and alumni leaders also addressed the Board about the draft recommendations. We are grateful to the Commission for its expeditious work to finalize its recommendations following the conclusion of the comment period.

    Board Actions

    The core of the Commission’s recommendations is a set of ten proposed principles to guide decisions about naming and removal of names at the University. The Board, having carefully reviewed and discussed the draft principles at previous meetings, convened on Saturday and adopted the principles as presented by the Commission. The final approved principles are available here.

    Given the clarity of the principles, and the extensive research previously conducted into the lives and work of Robert Ryland and Douglas Southall Freeman, the Board also voted to remove the names of Ryland Hall and Freeman Hall. In addition, as part of its consideration of the draft principles, the Board requested research into other buildings named for individuals who were enslavers. Four additional buildings were identified: Jeter Hall, Thomas Hall, Brunet Hall, and Puryear Hall. Accordingly, the Board voted to remove the names from those four buildings. Additional information about the buildings can be found here. These actions take effect immediately.

    We recognize that not all members of our community will agree with these decisions. And we recognize that the University would not exist today without the efforts of some whose names we have removed. The Board’s decision to adopt the principles and remove building names, while ultimately unanimous, was extremely challenging. Members of the Board began this process with strongly held differences of opinion, and the subsequent discussions were candid, thoughtful, and constructive. In the end, the Board concluded that the decisions outlined above are the best course of action for the University.

    Next Steps

    As we take these actions, we want to be clear that we respect the full, complete history of this institution. To that end, President Hallock will develop a plan this summer, consistent with Principle 9, to preserve and make accessible a full historical record related to these buildings and their previous namesakes. We are confident we can preserve and communicate our history without honoring through building names individuals who enslaved other persons or otherwise acted in conflict with the naming principles. 

    We also considered and concur broadly with the second key component of the Commission’s recommendations: that a University committee be established to consider and make a recommendation to the Board about any future requests for name removals. Consistent with the Commission’s recommendation, President Hallock will develop a charge and procedures for the committee and appoint its membership (including representation from key University constituencies), so that the committee is in place by this fall. This committee will consider and make recommendations to the Board specifically about questions of name removal. The Board, the President, and their designees retain authority for decisions about any new naming.

    As difficult as this process has been, underlying all of the comments and suggestions is a clear appreciation for the University and the transformative role it has played and continues to play in so many lives. A commitment to mutual respect and hearing and considering different points of view has also driven this process. Across our community, we heard clearly that a continued commitment to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging must be a core element of our University and its culture. We share that commitment and believe these decisions are consistent with that objective.

    We understand that the issues that prompted this debate and review will not immediately recede. It will take time to heal the differences in our community, and we ask everyone to respect the opinions and experiences of others, during this process and beyond.

    Above all, we are confident about the bright future of our University, and we look forward to continuing to engage all members of our community in our important work and shared aspirations for the University’s continued excellence.


    President Hallock and Board of Trustees