Executive Summary

Since its founding in 1837, Davidson College has sought to honor individuals by conferring their names on college facilities, spaces, programs, and funds.  Over time, these names have become reflective of the College’s history.  As a residential community of learning, these names have also become part of the physical fabric of the student experience.  Naming practices, therefore, reflect the history, tradition, and values of our institution.

The college’s Statement of Purpose, which is our mission statement, states that “the primary purpose of Davidson College is to assist students in developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service.”  The college’s values, which grow out of the college’s Reformed Tradition heritage, call for an education that cultivates humane values and prepares students to lead and serve for the common good guided by a moral compass (which may differ from one individual to another); academic excellence and an unfettered quest for truth rooted in intellectual rigor and broad learning; and an honor code that creates a community of integrity and trust.

The college establishes this naming policy to ensure that its naming practices reflect the college’s Statement of Purpose and its values.  Specifically, this policy sets forth the procedures for conferring names and, in exceptional circumstances, the procedures for removing names outside of the ordinary course.  It also addresses the procedures for rescinding honorary designations and removing portrait displays.

Name designations for facilities, spaces, programs, and funds have an expected duration.  Removing a name designation before the end of an expected duration is a serious endeavor that should only be undertaken if continuing the name would impair the college’s ability to live out its Statement of Purpose fully and faithfully or would violate the college’s foundational values, which grow out of the college’s Reformed Tradition heritage. 

This policy sets a high standard for removing a name designation before the end of an expected duration.  As an institution of higher learning, the college must take care not to establish an orthodoxy with respect to particular opinions or otherwise inhibit free inquiry.  Even so, as a college that values diversity, recognizing the dignity and worth of every person, Davidson must be willing to submit its own history to scrutiny and thoughtful assessment consistent with high standards of integrity and free and open inquiry and debate. 

Background

In Fall 2020, the Board of Trustees formed a committee on Acknowledgment and Naming in response to the Report of the Commission on Race and Slavery, which recommended the college examine building names.  The Acknowledgment and Naming Committee sought the feedback of the college community in preparing this policy.  During its work, the Committee determined that this policy should also address similar questions related to the extraordinary circumstances under which the college would rescind an honorary designation or remove a portrait on display.  This policy was approved by the Trustees of Davidson College on April 12, 2022.     

Section A: Conferring Names

The naming of facilities, spaces, programs, and funds may be recommended for the following reasons:

1. Naming in Recognition of a Gift or Sponsorship

Where appropriate, the college recognizes the philanthropic support of its donors with naming opportunities.  Naming opportunities are available for gifts to support construction of facilities, gifts of endowed funds to establish a scholarship, chair, or other program at the college, and for gifts of unrestricted funds to support the college.  Naming opportunities are available to individuals, corporations, foundations, and other entities.

The Vice President for College Relations establishes the minimum gift amount required for naming opportunities in consultation with the President.   

Ordinarily, the Vice President for College Relations shall select the name in collaboration with the donor.  Naming designations for academic buildings and residence halls are subject to review by the President, and, at the President’s discretion, may be reviewed by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.    

2. Naming in Honor of an Individual or Entity

The college may elect to name a facility, space, program, or fund in honor of an individual or entity who has provided exemplary, meritorious, or philanthropic support or service to the college, or to society generally.  The college may choose to raise funds from donors to support the honorific naming opportunity. 

The Vice President for College Relations determines appropriate honorific naming opportunities in consultation with the President. 

The Vice President for College Relations shall select the name, and where possible will consult with the named individual(s) or their families.  Naming designations for academic buildings and residence halls are subject to review by the President, and, at the President’s discretion, may be reviewed by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees.   

Section B: Naming Approval Process

The Vice President for College Relations manages the naming approval process, in consultation with the President, as appropriate.  Name approval may not be granted until the proposed name is known.  If the donor does not wish to select the name to be applied when the gift is made, the college may accept the gift, with the name to be determined later. 

For binding, irrevocable gifts, a name may go into effect before the gift is paid in full, at the discretion of the Vice President for College Relations.

Section C: Duration of Naming

1. Gifts to name facilities or spaces

Naming rights shall remain for the useful life of the facility or space, as determined by the college.  In the event that the space is reallocated, renovated, or demolished, the college shall determine another appropriate method of recognition in consultation with the Donor or their immediate family.  If consultation with the Donor or their immediate family is not possible, the college shall proceed in a manner not inconsistent with the expressed desires of the Donor.  

2. Endowed gifts to support programs or funds

Naming rights shall remain for the life of the program or fund, provided, that if at any time the college determines that the income from the fund is no longer needed for the designated purpose or a change of circumstances should render the designated purpose of the fund unlawful, impractical, wasteful, no longer reasonably achievable, or no longer of reasonable benefit to the college, the college may use the income from the fund for such purposes as in its opinion will best further the objectives and welfare of the college, and in a manner not inconsistent with the expressed desires of the Donor.  If the change in use of income from the fund would also change the naming designation, the college will determine another appropriate method of recognition in consultation with the Donor or their immediate family.  If consultation with the Donor or their immediate family is not possible, the college shall proceed in a manner not inconsistent with the expressed desires of the Donor.  

3. Gifts of current-use (non-endowed) funds, including sponsorships

Naming rights shall remain for a prescribed period of time agreed upon by the Vice President for College Relations and the donor, or until the funds are spent.

4. Deferred gifts 

For deferred gifts, if the amounts received by the college are sufficient to meet the minimum endowed fund requirements of the college at the time the gift is realized, the college will establish a permanent endowment and the naming rights shall remain for the life of the program or fund, provided, that if at any time the college determines that the income from the fund is no longer needed for the designated purpose or a change of circumstances should render the designated purpose of the fund unlawful, impractical, wasteful, no longer reasonably achievable, or no longer of reasonable benefit to the college, the college may use the income from the fund for such purposes as in its opinion will best further the objectives and welfare of the college, and in a manner not inconsistent with the expressed desires of the Donor.  If the change in use of income from the fund would also change the naming designation, the college will determine another appropriate method of recognition in consultation with the Donor or their immediate family.  If consultation with the Donor or their immediate family is not possible, the college shall proceed in a manner not inconsistent with the expressed desires of the Donor.  

If, however, the accumulated deferred gifts to the college do not meet the minimum endowed fund requirements of the college at the time the gift is realized, then the college may either (i) establish a current-use (non-endowed) fund and the naming rights shall expire when the funds are spent; or (ii) create an endowed fund for a different purpose, in a manner not inconsistent with the expressed desires of the Donor.   

5. Honorific Name Designations.

Where the college elects to name a facility, space, program, or fund in honor of an individual or entity, the college retains the right to determine the duration of the name designation.

Section D: Removal of Name

1. Reasons to Remove a Name Designation

The college may remove a name or rename facilities, spaces, programs, and funds for the following reasons:

a. At the end of the expected duration of the name, as set forth above.

b. In the event the pledge is not fulfilled in a timely manner, the college may remove the name and/or offer the Donor an alternate naming opportunity and recognition commensurate with the giving level.

c. If there is a change of circumstances that causes the Donor or other affected party to request a name change, the college may remove the name and/or rename the facility, space, program or fund in consultation with the Donor, the Donor’s family, or the affected parties. When a name change is requested following a divorce, the college requires either mutual consent of the parties or a court order or court-approved settlement before it will consider a name change.

d. In the unlikely event that continuation of a name designation would impair the college’s ability to live out its Statement of Purpose (mission statement) fully and faithfully or would violate the college’s foundational values, as more fully described below.  This reason shall be referred to in this Policy as an “Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation.”

2. Decision to Remove a Name Designation

Except in the event of an Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation, the President approves the decision to remove the name designation of a facility, space, program or fund. 

For an Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation, the Board of Trustees will make the decision to remove the name from a facility, space, program or fund, following the process outlined below. The Board of Trustees may delegate any of the responsibilities set forth below to a committee designated by the Board of Trustees.

3. Process for Board-approved Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation

a. Guiding Principles: Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation is a serious process that should only be considered in extraordinary circumstances.  In determining that a name designation should be removed, the Board is guided by the principles outlined in this policy.

i. We are guided by our mission statement, Davidson’s Statement of Purpose

As set forth in the college’s mission statement, the Statement of Purpose, the primary purpose of Davidson College is to assist students in developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership and service.  As a college that welcomes students, faculty, and staff from a variety of nationalities, ethnic groups, and traditions, Davidson values diversity, recognizing the dignity and worth of every person.  Davidson intends to teach all students to think clearly, to make relevant and valid judgments, to discriminate among values, and to communicate freely with others in the realm of ideas.

ii. We are guided by our Reformed Tradition values

We are also guided by our values, which grow out of the college’s Reformed Tradition heritage.  These values include: 

  • An education that cultivates humane values and prepares students to lead and serve for the common good guided by a moral compass (which may differ from one individual to another);
  • Academic excellence and an unfettered quest for truth rooted in intellectual rigor and broad learning;
  • An honor code that creates a community of integrity and trust;
  • an ethos in which the dignity and worth of each person is clearly affirmed;
  • Openness to and respect for diversity and differences of religion, worldview, and opinion;
  • Development of the whole person, body, mind, and spirit, in a residential community setting;
  • An emphasis on personal relationships as vital to human flourishing;
  • An aspiration to continually being reformed in ways that thoughtfully draw upon a particular heritage and shared values so as to positively engage current realities. [Adapted from “Reflections on the Reformed Tradition at Davidson College,” a report of the Reformed Tradition Working Group to the Trustees of Davidson College, and included as an exhibit to the minutes of the April 3-4, 2017 Board of Trustees meeting, and affirmed in the “Report of the 2021 Reformed Tradition Working Group,” received by the Board at the September 9, 2021 meeting of the Executive Committee.]

iii. Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation is appropriate when continuation of the name would jeopardize the college’s ability to achieve its mission or violates its values 

Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation because of the conduct or legacy of the person honored by the name is a serious determination and change to the college’s original decision.  It should only be undertaken where warranted, with humility and after careful deliberation.  A decision to remove a name designation is an exceptional decision that should be based on a determination that continuing the name would impair the college’s ability to live out its Statement of Purpose fully and faithfully or would violate the college’s foundational values, which grow out of the college’s Reformed Tradition heritage. 

As an institution that values diversity, recognizing the dignity and worth of every person, Davidson must be willing to submit our history to scrutiny and thoughtful assessment consistent with high standards of integrity and free and open inquiry and debate.

b. Process for initiating a potential Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation

The Board of Trustees may begin the process of reconsidering the name on a facility, space, program or fund at its own initiative or in response to a signed, written petition submitted to the Board by students, faculty, staff or alumni.  The petition should describe:

i. the specific conduct or course(s) of conduct by the person after whom a facility, space, program or fund is named that violate the college’s Statement of Purpose or foundational values;

ii. the sources and strength of the evidence of that behavior;

iii. the nature, depth, and extent of the harm that the continued use of the name may inflict on the college’s integrity, mission, and communities; and

​​​​​​​iv. how removing the name comports with the principles described in this document.

Upon receipt of the petition, the Board may make further inquiries of its submitters and, in their discretion, submit the petition to a committee appointed by the Board to investigate the claims and report back to the Board. Where appropriate, the Board may invite written comments from interested members of the Davidson community.  A call for written comments will be shared by emailing Davidson students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and friends of the college.  Anonymous comments will not be considered.  The comment period will remain open for 30 days.   

​​​​​​​c. Factors to be Considered

The Board will weigh the following factors when considering an Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation.  The Board may grant more or less weight to any factor depending on its relevance to the petition and the general context:

​​​​​​​i. The harm caused by retaining the name.

The Board will consider whether retention of the name compromises the college’s mission and values. This is a question whose answer should not be casually assumed. Among other things, it will depend on the nature of the conduct at issue, the prominence and role of the named feature in daily life at the college, including whether the name is encountered in a personal or intimate setting, and the degree to which retention of the name interferes with the ability of college community members to teach, learn, work, and live in the community.  The Board may also consider whether the conduct at issue is connected to academic fraud or misconduct. 

​​​​​​​ii. The potential harms of removing the name.

The Board must take care that removing a name not establish a college orthodoxy with respect to particular opinions or otherwise inhibit free inquiry.  The names of certain features may have a positive value for students, faculty, staff, or alumni, who may find renaming disrespectful of their views.  Over time, names of certain features have become reflective of the College’s history.  As a residential community of learning, these names have also become part of the physical fabric of the student experience.  Naming practices, therefore, reflect the history, tradition, and values of our institution.  The Board must also consider the time, effort, cost, and potential conflict associated with removing a name.  ​​​​​​​

iii. The centrality of the namesake’s offensive conduct to their life as a whole.

The Board should consider the conduct at issue in context of the individual’s life.  Questions for the Board to consider include: is the offensive conduct inextricably connected with their public persona or has become their prevailing legacy?    Was the namesake found to have committed a serious violation of a state or U.S. law?  Was the conduct conventional at the time of the conduct or the naming?  Are there other aspects of the person’s life and work that are especially praiseworthy despite the objectionable conduct?  Is there evidence of a significant level of contrition, evolution, or moderation of the conduct and/or views?

​​​​​​​iv. Relation to the College’s history.

The Board should consider the significance of the namesake to the college’s history. Concerns about “erasing” the college’s history are diminished if the relationship between the college and the namesake is incidental. 

​​​​​​​v. Strength and clarity of the historical evidence.

The Board will review available documentary evidence that supports the conduct alleged, including evidence of the extent and intentionality of the conduct.  The Board recognizes that in some cases the evidence may be scant, ambiguous, or subject to professional disagreement, and therefore the weighing of this factor will be undertaken with great care.

​​​​​​​vi. The College’s prior consideration of the issues.

The Board will take into consideration whether the namesake’s offensive conduct came to light after the naming, and whether the naming decision was the subject of prior Board deliberation.  In cases where the offensive conduct was known at the time of the naming, the Board will review the context in which the naming decision was made. 

​​​​​​​vii. Possibilities for contextualization.

In considering whether to retain or eliminate a name, the college should take into account whether the harm can be mitigated and historical knowledge preserved by recognizing and addressing the namesake’s wrongful conduct. When a feature is renamed or when the name is retained but the Board considers it a close question, the college should consider describing the history in a prominent way—at the feature, where practicable, or in some other suitable location.  Opportunities for contextualization, education, and preservation of historical knowledge to advance the college’s mission and values must be considered in any final determination on the potential removal and/or renaming of a facility or space.

​​​​​​​d. Announcing Decision

The Board will share its decision with the Davidson community and, to the extent possible, will include in that announcement any publicly-available information that informed the decision.     

Section E: Renaming

If a naming designation is removed through the Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation process, then the Board of Trustees will decide the new name for the facility, space, program or fund. The Board may choose to defer the renaming decision to a later date and where appropriate, may choose to consult with members of the college community on the renaming decision.

All other renaming decisions (i.e., when a name is removed at the end of the expected duration, or because a pledge is not fulfilled, or at the request of the donor or affected party), the Vice President for College Relations shall select the new name in consultation with the President.

Section F: Other Honorific Designations

In addition to naming designations, the College may choose to honor an individual who has provided exemplary, meritorious, or philanthropic support or service to the college, or to society generally, with an honorific designation.  Honorific designations include, but are not limited to: conferring an honorary degrees, induction into the Athletics Hall of Fame, or granting an alumni award.

In extraordinary circumstances, the Board may rescind an honorary designation if the honoree engages in conduct that violates the College’s Statement of Purpose or its foundational values, such that the honoree no longer meets the criteria for the honorary designation.  [For Honorary Degrees, the criteria are the guidelines adopted by the Trustee Protocol Committee and the Faculty Honorary Degrees Committee in 1984 and amended in 1995.  For Athletics Hall of Fame, the criteria are the Hall of Fame Criteria and Selection Process policy.]  In making its determination, the Board will follow the same process outlined in Section D.3 of this policy, (Process for Board-approved Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation) and apply those principles to the specific criteria for the honorary designation.

Section G: Portraits          

The College owns and on occasion displays portraits of individuals who have made significant contributions to the College, including former college presidents.  Portraits hung on campus are not on permanent display.  In making the determination of which portraits to display on campus, the President’s Office will consider the relevance of the individual’s contributions to the history, traditions, and values of the College.  The President’s Office determines where portraits should be hung, and from time to time may move portraits to alternate sites or place portraits in storage.  The President may approve the donation of a portrait to another nonprofit entity (for example, a museum or another educational institution) or to descendants of the subject of the portrait.  This policy applies to historical portraits curated by the President’s Office.  Artwork curated by the College art gallery is not within the scope of this policy.

In extraordinary circumstances, the Board may direct the President to remove a portrait on display if the individual depicted engaged in conduct that violates the College’s Statement of Purpose or its foundational values.  In making its determination, the Board will follow the same process outlined in Section D.3 of this policy, (Process for Board-approved Exceptional Removal of a Name Designation) and apply those principles to the specific criteria for portrait display.  ​​​​​​​

Section H: Special Circumstances and Exceptions

Exceptions to this naming policy may be made under special circumstances.  Exceptions shall be approved by the President (except for those section where this policy requires Board approval, in which case the Board must approve any exception).  

Section I: Policy Revision  

Revisions to this policy are made by the Board of Trustees or a committee designated by the Board of Trustees; provided, however, that minor revisions that do not substantially change this policy may be made by the President.