February 22, 2017
In March, 2016, I established the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context to recommend “…campus sites, including monuments, buildings, and street names, that should be contextualized to better explain the environments in which they were created or named and how those environments compare to our core institutional values. ” The CACHC was asked to complete its work in the 2017 spring semester.
In its first meeting on August 16, 2016, I charged the CACHC with a two phase set of goals:
I. The initial task of the committee will be to recommend which additional physical sites on the Oxford campus (beyond those already completed) should be contextualized, so as to explain the environment in which they were created or named. Potential sites include
- buildings (for example, Vardaman Hall, Johnson Commons, and Lamar Hall)
- street names
II. Once the recommendations have been reviewed by my office and the list of sites is finalized, the committee will proceed with designing content and format to contextualize the designated sites.
The charge also emphasized the importance of community input and engagement throughout the CACHC’s work and urged the inclusion of public forums such as town hall meetings and other in person venues and electronic communication tools. The Committee utilized an online web form to solicit wide input into the identification of sites that formed the core of its Phase I work. This process resulted in 45 separate submissions. Under the leadership of Dr. Don Cole and Ms. Rose Flenorl, co-chairs of the CACHC, the committee worked diligently throughout the Fall 2016 semester. It completed Phase I of its charge and forwarded a recommended list of physical sites for contextualization to me. The list, which consists of ten specific physical sites, received unanimous support of the committee.
Specific CACHC-recommended action includes two items:
- Vardaman Hall (to be renamed through University processes, upon IHL approval)
- Johnson Commons (to add “Sr.” on building, further specifying nominee)
The CACHC also recommended contextualization of the following monuments, buildings, or street names:
- Lamar Hall
- Barnard Observatory
- Longstreet Hall
- George Hall
- Barnard Observatory, Croft Hall, the Lyceum, and Hilgard Cut — plaque to be placed just west of Croft, within site of the first three buildings, noting that these four projects were all constructed with slave labor
Item 7 was included in a separate part of the committee report, but I have included it in the list, since it is of the same nature of the others in that it contextualizes monuments, buildings, and/or street names.
With gratitude and appreciation for the hard work of the CACHC, I have reviewed and finalized the list of sites to contextualize, as stated above, and we can thus bring to completion Phase I of the committee’s charge.
I now refer the CACHC to Phase II of its charge to “… proceed with designing content and format to contextualize” the sites designated above. I charge the committee to undertake Phase II and complete the tasks outlined above that require its input, in particular, items 3–7. I reiterate the importance of the timely completion of this work as a unit and request that the committee move quickly to establish a work plan that will provide me with a recommendation for content and format on all of the sites by May 31, 2017.
I also wish to reiterate the importance of input and engagement of the entire university community to help the committee consider all relevant information. I urge the committee to act quickly to schedule a public town hall meeting in the coming weeks to discuss this Phase II charge and engage the community. I also urge the CACHC to again utilize online tools to solicit input and to assure that the UM community receives regular updates on the work of the committee. The success of the Phase I work relies heavily on the input of those who submitted comments.
In addition to the physical sites recommended for action, the CACHC also tendered thoughts for “markers” or displays around the university’s larger history. The thoughts of the committee in this regard reflect the deep well of historical and institutional knowledge of its members and reinforces the university’s ongoing work in telling the university’s overall story in an accurate and comprehensive way. However, those thoughts also describe an academic effort that is beyond the scope and charge of this committee. The charge to the committee directed efforts to existing sites, buildings, monuments, and street names to better explain the context in which they were created or named. As important as is the overall story of any university, which is always a proper part of academic inquiry (such as the ongoing archeological work at Sheegog Plantation, which will add to the museum presentation at Rowan Oak), it is not within the scope of the CACHC charge. I would like to note that item 7 was a result of your thoughts related to the university’s broader history; it offered an opportunity to contextualize the history of four additional specific physical sites and fit within the scope of the CACHC.
In conclusion, I would like to thank all of the members of the CACHC for the quality of their work, which today results in completion of Phase I of the charge. I look forward to receiving the recommendation contemplated in Phase II and urge the committee to continue its work with all university stakeholders to ensure fully researched and accurate results.