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Gay Outlines FAS Process for Removing Controversial Names from Spaces, Titles

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay said in a Wednesday interview with The Crimson that one of the first agenda items of the FAS Committee on Visual Culture and Signage will be to engage with Harvard's history and legacies of slavery.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay said in a Wednesday interview with The Crimson that one of the first agenda items of the FAS Committee on Visual Culture and Signage will be to engage with Harvard's history and legacies of slavery. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Ariel H. Kim, Crimson Staff Writer

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay outlined the process the FAS will adopt to consider requests to remove the names or representations of individuals from its buildings, spaces, programs, or professorships in an email to FAS affiliates Thursday.

This process is guided by a December 2021 report by the Committee to Articulate Principles on Renaming, which called for the consideration of denaming requests to be “careful, painstaking, and laborious” and grounded “in history.” Gay’s Thursday email clarified FAS-specific principles for denaming and provided details about submitting denaming requests.

Any current FAS affiliate may submit a denaming request to the Secretary of the Faculty. In the upcoming academic year, there will be two deadlines for submitting requests, October 3 and March 1.

After each deadline, the Secretary will share submitted requests to the Docket Committee of the FAS Faculty Council and the Office of the General Counsel. At the recommendation of the Docket Committee, the FAS Dean and University President can appoint a review committee to evaluate a denaming request.

If the review committee rejects a denaming request, a similar request cannot be considered for five years except in “extraordinary circumstances when significant and consequential new information comes to light.”

Gay wrote in her Thursday email that the FAS denaming process will approach the school’s history with humility. She added that the decision to remove a name will be the product of “deep examination and learning” and that the choice to move forward with a request should not be based solely on the number of supporters behind it.

Gay also noted that action on a request will be subject to an “inclusive process” that solicits views across the school and aims to encourage “generous listening and substantive discussion.”

The FAS denaming process is the first of many initiatives Gay said the school will engage in to respond to the release of a landmark University report last week, which acknowledged the “integral” role slavery played in shaping the school.

The Crimson reported Tuesday on the names of historical figures whose legacies are honored through buildings, streets, professorships, and towns — memorializing the legacy of slavery and discrimination on Harvard’s campus.

In an email to the FAS last week, Gay wrote that the report and its findings bring “new urgency” to efforts already underway within the FAS, such as evolving the school’s visual culture, diversifying faculty and staff, and expanding undergraduate financial aid.

Gay said in a Wednesday interview with The Crimson that one of the first agenda items of the FAS Committee on Visual Culture and Signage — established in December 2021 at the recommendation of the FAS Task Force on Visual Culture and Signage — will be to engage with Harvard’s history and legacies of slavery.

“As you probably remember from the Visual Culture report, there have been these priority spaces that were identified as places that present real opportunities for visual renewal, so they’ll be spending part of the summer just beginning to tour those places and starting to have conversations about what visual renewal might look like in those spaces,” she said.

—Staff writer Meimei Xu contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Ariel H. Kim can be reached at ariel.kim@thecrimson.com.

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FASFAS AdministrationFront Middle FeatureLegacy of Slavery