by JESS KIRBY
A new naming committee of UMW staff, students and alumni was charged with collecting name nominations for Trinkle Hall to be presented to University President Troy Paino by March 31, 2020. Any member of the UMW community can submit a name suggestion through a form sent out over email until Feb. 3.
“We invite all members of the UMW community to participate in this historic opportunity to celebrate the university and affirm the identity of our campus,” said naming committee co-chair and history and American studies professor Erin Devlin. She estimates that the form will reach over 30,000 people.
An email with the link to submit name ideas was sent out on Jan. 22. Students are also required to state how their choice is linked to UMW, how it represents UMW’s ASPIRE values, and how it fosters “an environment of equity, diversity and inclusion,” according to the email.
“Nominations are not restricted to individual names, but also may include groups, ideas or concepts,” said Devlin.
Once the survey closes, the naming committee will choose a variety of names, then send a poll out to the UMW community in late February, where they will be able to vote on their favorite name until March 11. Finally, the naming committee will send the selected names and the committee’s recommendation to Paino, and he will present them to the Board of Visitors at their April meeting. According to Devlin, it is UMW policy that the Board of Visitors makes the final decision.
The decision to rename Trinkle Hall has been popular among students.
“I definitely think that Trinkle should be renamed to something else because I don’t really want a building named after a person with racist ideals,” said freshman Katharine Bogen, a historic preservation and classics double major. “The education facilities are a huge reflection of the school as a whole. If they are named after people who had ideals not aligned with the community’s ideals today then it’s a big no for the school’s image.”
“Renaming this hall is not going to turn back time,” said freshman Maya Jenkins. “It is not going to create a post-racial America. But right now we have this amazing opportunity to be a part of this university’s history.” Jenkins is a political science and philosophy pre-law double major and one of the two student representatives on the naming committee, along with Brianna Reaves.
However, some of the community seems relatively unaware of the changes being made.
“I was not made aware of any renaming,” said sophomore Jack Dyson, a political science major.
But when they were informed, many UMW students largely agreed that Trinkle should be renamed.
“Before the name change for Trinkle was announced, I had no idea how awful he was because I never learned about him,” said freshman Lauryn Bailey, a history major. “Renaming buildings in a school setting can promote positive people to young adults rather than glorifying people who don’t deserve it.”
Some who support the Trinkle renaming also feel that the university’s history should be preserved in the process.
“I think Trinkle is a stupid name to begin with so I don’t care much that it’s going,” said Dyson. “I do think they should add a plaque so that people know what it used to be called and maybe why it was changed.”
Hall was named after former Virginia governor E. Lee Trinkle, a
supporter of eugenics, forced sterilization and a ban on interracial
marriage. Many students feel that Trinkle Hall should be given a name
that does not celebrate Virginia’s racist past.
“As a black female student I feel really uncomfortable in Trinkle,” said freshman Tatiane Alycia Jones, a member of the NAACP. “It makes me feel unwelcome and angry because UMW is honoring a figure who pushed legislation to hold black people down and treat us as if we’re less than human because of our skin tone.”
The decision to rename Trinkle was part of a two-year process by the Campus Environmental Presidential Ad Hoc Committee to evaluate the campus and determine what changes needed to be made. In their final report, among the most pressing issues was renaming Trinkle Hall.
After the Nov. 2019 meeting with the Board of Visitors, Paino appointed ten members of the UMW community to be on the naming committee. Of those ten people, two are student representatives.
“I feel that this is a good start,” said Jenkins. “When meetings start, statuses become equal. We aren’t professors or business people or students. We are just people who want to make the school better than what it once was. There was a time when people who looked like me could not even step foot on this campus. The world is changing and so is Mary Washington.”