Commemoration and History Next Steps
Friday, March 30, 2018
Dear Members of the VCU and VCU Health Team,
Universities across the country, including VCU, are increasingly engaging with their difficult histories. Shortly after the violent events in Charlottesville and around the nation, I called on members of my leadership team to meet to thoughtfully consider how VCU might address similar issues and events. This group has met regularly since the fall to discuss safety, student, faculty, and curriculum concerns.
One of the key areas of discussion among this team is how we will address and engage around issues related to symbols of the Confederacy, slavery, white supremacy, and other items of an exclusionary nature that may exist on our campuses.
John Kneebone, chair of the History Department, and Hannah Cameron, a graduate student in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, agreed to chair a committee of faculty members, staff, students, and administrators charged with considering how VCU’s history is connected to those symbols and how we make decisions about when and how to commemorate moving forward. One of the first steps the committee took was to create a comprehensive audit of the symbols, plaques, and statues, prepared by university archivist Jodi Koste.
The committee, which includes representatives from both campuses, has thoughtfully considered how to engage the entire VCU community in this conversation. Over the next few weeks, they will engage with initial groups of faculty, staff, and student stakeholder groups about existing symbols and the process for commemorating or deciding to remove previous symbols of commemoration. These groups include the Council on Inclusive Excellence, Inclusive Learning Council, Faculty and Staff senates, University Council, and Undergraduate and Graduate SGAs.
These small group discussions will help us to prepare for larger, more inclusive sets of conversations during the fall. I will keep the community informed as we move forward on this effort to ensure that all members of the VCU community feel heard, included and respected, and that our commitments to diversity and inclusion permeate everything we do.
Michael Rao, Ph.D.
President, VCU and VCU Health