Editorial: UMN regents’ response to renaming report is disheartening

We found the regents discussion around renaming to be narrow and dismissive.

by Daily Editorial Board

Several members of the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents were quick to dismiss the 125-page report by the Task Force on Building Names and Institutional History at the most recent regent meeting. They criticized the report, saying it was both unfair and ill-researched, and voiced concerns about the preservation of institutional histories. 

We believe the quick dismissal by most of the board shows a disregard for months of research and intensive efforts to acknowledge complex histories of our University, which was work done by highly regarded members of our community. It also disregards a majority of faculty, staff and graduate student desires that were identified by the task force’s polling. Further, we’re disappointed that many regents decline to “pass judgement” on actions we see as clearly racist and anti-Semitic. 

While it’s important to acknowledge that time has passed, we must ask ourselves: in what context are prejudiced actions acceptable? Where would those regents like the line to be drawn?

Many regents accused the task force of taking a narrow view of history and omitting information. However, we disagree with the conclusion that these actions are excusable simply because they happened in the past. And we disagree that the successes of former administrators outweigh the gravity of their racist actions — we find this argument to be a more dogmatic one.

We do not aim to condemn historical figures, nor do we claim these men did not benefit the University. We acknowledge the differences in time, historical context and social norms. That being said, there is a grave difference in celebrating men who wholly contradict the values of our University. Even taking historical contexts and prevailing social norms of an age gone by into account, we know the men’s actions went against what we firmly stand for now.

We disagree with these regents. We believe the report was extremely well done. There was a wealth of unbiased research in addition to opinion polling of students, alumni, faculty and staff. The task force took the time to gather as much research as possible and to account for as many opinions and players as possible, and we at the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board are not sure what more they could have done. Although we appreciate the regents’ incredibly careful consideration of the report, we urge them to reconsider how they view the research.

As some regents preached to consider the historical circumstances, we hope they consider the lasting impact that leaving these men’s names on the buildings would have. Even with installed exhibits, the task force’s research found actions that run opposed to what we value and accept. Pushing back against the findings of the report will leave us on the wrong side of the University’s history.