Building names reveal racial disparities

The naming process should be completed by mid-November.
Construction workers dig at the site of the Jones building construction Oct. 6, 2015, on Kentucky Boulevard.

The Residence Halls Association is currently choosing names for two new residence halls that will be built in the Dobbs area.

This year, RHA will choose the name for Building 1 (rebuilt from Jones Hall, which was demolished in spring 2015) and give suggestions to the future RHA government for Building 2 and other upcoming projects.

The naming process for residence halls begins with individual committees in RHA, which send their top two choices to RHA Congress for the process of elimination. Once four names are chosen, they will be sent to the Department of Residential Life and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Cathy Scroggs. Finally, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin will sign off on one of the names.

Research conducted by The Maneater on the namesakes of campus buildings and landmarks, including residence halls and academic buildings, found that 77 out of 94 buildings or structures on campus that are named after people are named after white men. Eight are named after white women and five are named after white couples.

The interactive map below shows the namesakes of buildings on MU's campus. Click on the dots for information about each building.

The colors represent gender and ethnicity. Red – white male; green – white couple; yellow – white female; blue – black male; pink – company/foundation.

RHA President Billy Donley said RHA Congress will have their final names chosen by their last meeting in October. In order to begin engraving signs for the buildings, RHA should complete the full process for the chosen names by mid-November.

RHA Vice President Rachel Thomas said she believes it is very important that RHA chooses the names of the new halls.

“We represent all students who live in the halls and all the ideas and passions of those students,” Thomas said. “We’re the best resource to get as much student input as we can in those decisions.”

In addition to the naming of the exterior buildings, students also have the opportunity to name floors in residence halls. Halls such as McDavid, College Avenue, Respect and Excellence have all adopted floor names, something ResLife strongly encourages.

Choosing Diverse Names

Director of Residential Life Frankie Minor said that while there are general guidelines RHA must follow, they also trust their students to make good decisions. The names must fit with the character of the institution and usually pass unless there are strong concerns or objections.

Minor said he believes students will take into account a variety of factors this year, including diversity.

“I think our students are very concerned about social justice issues, inclusion and equality,” Minor said.

There are only two buildings named after black men and women on MU’s campus. Strickland Hall is named after Arvarh Strickland, MU’s first black faculty member. The Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center is named after Lloyd Gaines and Marion Oldham, two black “civil rights pioneers” in MU’s history, according to the center’s website.

No buildings or structures are named after people who are not black or white.

Donley said RHA Congress wants to have a more diverse and inspiring set of names for the future residence halls.

“We’re trying to be more serious and think about really inspiring people and influential movements, not only for society but for students,” Donley said. “That is something that’s really wanted and desired on this campus right now.”

History of Naming

Last year, RHA went through the naming process for the new building constructed on Virginia Avenue and chose Gateway Hall. Thomas said they looked at general names but also those specific to MU.

“Gateway was chosen because it’s the ‘gateway into the future’, but it also connects the past as well,” Thomas said. “It’s this new single building, but it holds all the traditional values that Mizzou has.”

Prior to 2001, there had been no residence halls named at MU in nearly 40 years. ResLife and other MU administration chose to use placeholder names because of a lack of significant donors, including building project names, such as South, Center, North and College Avenue.

RHA began using placeholder names in 2009 when Hawthorn, Galena and Dogwood halls were named after the Missouri state flower, mineral and tree, respectively. MU leadership was trying to decide what to call the new buildings and decided to ask the students currently living in the halls for their input.

Many of the names from demolished residence halls have been preserved in interior rooms in the halls, which include pictures and information about those honored. ResLife is currently deciding if and how they will preserve Jones, potentially with an interior room or a scholarship fund.

Minor said tradition is important to MU, and ResLife wants to make sure tradition continues, even when the original buildings are demolished.

Naming Academic Buildings

The naming of academic buildings on campus depends primarily on service to the university and donations given.

Names of buildings should “enhance the public reputation of the institution,” according to the UM System collected rules and regulations.

There are four options in the collected rules for naming buildings and landmarks:

  • Faculty, staff members or organizations who have “rendered distinctive service” to MU
  • Individuals such as curators, graduates, former students or organizations who have “rendered distinctive service” to MU
  • People or organizations dedicated to the purpose, nature and mission of MU who have “achieved outstanding distinction through civic, intellectual or artistic contributions to the development of the area, state, and nation or to Missouri history”
  • People or organizations who make or have made a “substantial financial contribution” toward the construction or renovation costs of the building, or have had a substantial contribution made in their behalf

MU typically gives a specific individual or organization’s name to only one building or landmark.

The UM System Board of Curators must approve names of exterior areas (buildings and facilities) and university landmarks (statues and other landmarks), while names of interior areas (auditoriums, classrooms and other interior building spaces) require the approval of UM System President Tim Wolfe.

Catey Terry, director of advancement for communications and donor relations, said diversity is always a consideration for named opportunities that come through the Advancement division.

While significant campus contributions are a factor in naming buildings, so are donations. According to MU Advancement’s naming opportunity guide, it takes a donation of 25 to 50 percent of the construction or renovation cost to have the building named after the donor.

Other donations can buy other naming opportunities on campus. For $5 million to $25 million, a donor can have an academic department or unit named after him or herself. It takes $30 million to $100 million for a school or college to be named after the donor.

Minor said he would encourage students to learn about history and context behind the names of buildings on campus.

“Helping people understand the name of a facility is often a testament to the contributions, and it’s not just financial, that those people have made to this institution or to this state,” Minor said. “The more students know about this place, I think it gives them a little more meaning.”

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