University Community Provides Feedback on Colonials Moniker

A special committee composed of faculty, students, staff and alumni heard from GW community members in three virtual town halls.

November 23, 2020

The Special Committee on the Colonials Moniker held three virtual forums this fall to provide an update on their work and gather community input on whether the university moniker should be changed.

“President LeBlanc has tasked us with collecting and evaluating information about the Colonials moniker and, ultimately, making a recommendation on whether or not the name should be retained,” said Special Committee Chair Mary Cheh, the Elyce Zenoff Research Professor of Law, at the Oct. 29 virtual town hall. Town halls were also held Nov. 2 and Nov. 11.

The Special Committee on the Colonials Moniker was established after the Board of Trustees approved a framework that created a structure for the university to consider requests to rename GW buildings and memorials.

The Board of Trustees’ Naming Task Force stated that the Colonials moniker “stood apart as an issue of great concern.” Noting that renamings of buildings, memorials and the like on campus should be rare, the task force specified that consideration of the moniker should “arguably be even rarer,” since the university has only one moniker at any given time. The framework’s appendix proposed a procedure, including the creation of the special committee, and defined the unique considerations for the university to address the moniker.

“Our goal today is to listen to you,” said Ms. Cheh. “I want to be clear the committee has not made any decisions on recommendations, nor do we have any deadline for any decisions. We’re currently researching and evaluating the merits of the issue.”

Specifically, she said, the special committee is evaluating the moniker using the six factors defined in the Naming Task Force framework:

  • The use of the term “Colonials” in historical context.
  • The history and process behind the initial selection of the moniker.
  • The connection of the moniker to the university and/or its namesake.
  • The depth and breadth of offense or harm caused by use of the moniker.
  • The affinity for and prominence of the moniker as found on or associated with structures, events, athletic uniforms, traditions and the like.
  • The legal and financial implications of changing the moniker.

The committee heard a range of opinions at the town halls, and the special committee is continuing to gather feedback while it reviews the moniker. That feedback will inform a report focused on the six key considerations that will be presented to Dr. LeBlanc. If a compelling case for renaming is found, the president will consult with the chair of the Board of Trustees, in whose discretion it shall be whether and when to submit the request for decision to the Board of Trustees. The Board may accept, deny or modify the recommendation.