Naming Task Force Discusses the Importance of Process, Potential Outcomes

The framework that the task force will present to the board will allow the GW community to petition for name changes.

June 8, 2020

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Uncertain and turbulent times, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrations against racism across the country, serve as a reminder that it is especially critical for the Task Force on Naming to “get this right,” said Mark Chichester a George Washington University Board of Trustee member and chair of the task force.

During the last of three virtual town halls open to the GW community, Mr. Chichester, B.B.A. ’90, J.D. ’93, said on Thursday that current events provide even greater urgency around the issues with which the task force has been wrestling while developing a renaming framework.

"As we observe the behavior of leaders across sectors of our society right now and look at the unrest, the polarization, this task force is of the mind that this is an important opportunity, on an admittedly challenging set of issues, to bring the university community to consensus,” Mr. Chichester said.

In developing that framework, Mr. Chichester said it is important that it is not something that is driven by expediency and that only works for current GW community stakeholders today. The framework should reasonably stand the test of time and be durable enough for future stakeholders in the GW community, he said, and developing that framework requires input from all segments of the community, research on best practices, and lessons learned from other leading institutions.

The task force is wrapping up its work, which began in December, to develop procedures through which the university will review under what circumstances renaming requests should be considered. The task force will present its recommended framework to the Board of Trustees at the board’s June 26 meeting.

While the task force is not charged with considering any particular renaming request, its members are aware that the Marvin Center name and GW’s Colonials moniker are of great concern to some in the university community. Those particular cases have provided important context for the task force’s work, Mr. Chichester said.

"Once the framework is adopted by the board, the institution will be in a position to apply that framework to what members of the community bring forward,” Mr. Chichester said. “Presuming that the Marvin Center issue will be one of them, in addition to a framework, this task force will hand off, with its report and recommendations, resources that we've reviewed on the history of Marvin that have helped inform our thinking," he said.

The task force incorporated multiple perspectives when developing a framework for renaming decisions because of the shared learning process that encourages diverse thought in the university context, Mr. Chichester said. He encouraged the GW community to submit feedback to the task force as it prepares its final report for the Board of Trustees, so that those diverse perspectives can continue to be heard.

"I think that folks can have trust that we have some good and thoughtful people on this task force,” Mr. Chichester said. “Based on the strength of character and the talent of the people who are doing the work on the task force, I think you'll have something on the other side of this that will serve the community well for the foreseeable future."