Shenandoah University removing Harry F. Byrd, Jr.'s name from School of Business

A part of Shenandoah University's campus called Sarah's Glen where students can relax and...
A part of Shenandoah University's campus called Sarah's Glen where students can relax and study. | Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.(WHSV)
Published: Jun. 10, 2020 at 6:11 PM EDT
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Shenandoah University announced on Wednesday evening that they are are removing the name of Sen. Harry F. Byrd, Jr. from their School of Business.

The move comes amid nationwide civil unrest and a reckoning with racist legacies after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

As protesters across the country have called for change to structures enabling systemic racism, it's led to renewed calls for removals of Confederate monuments from public places, bans on the Confederate flag at sporting events, and name changes of public buildings bearing the names of Confederate or other leaders with racist histories.

According to Shenandoah University, their 38-member Board of Trustees voted unanimously on June 10 to immediately remove Byrd's name from the university's business school and board room "in recognition of the school’s ongoing commitment to be a welcoming and inclusive institution for all. "

“At Shenandoah, we encourage the best, the brightest, the inspired, to come learn with us, in the spirit of equitable access for every one of our students,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Rob Frogale. “This decision today about the business school is reflective of our commitment to continuing efforts toward racial justice and equality for all.”

It's one of several steps the university is taking right now that they say can help take action against racism and "establish a culture that is unequivocal in its commitment to Black lives and antiracism."

The university's mission is to foster a campus culture of “compassion, responsibility, advocacy, and justice, which graduates are inspired to replicate in communities beyond Shenandoah," and university leaders say living up to that requires taking a stand.

Earlier this month, University President Tracy Fitzsimmons announced that the school would be putting these plans into action:

• The establishment of an anonymous system to report discrimination

• Mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all Faculty and Staff (starting right away this summer with DPS, Athletics, VP & Pres Offices, Staff Council and Faculty Senate)

• The establishment of a diversity scholarship to support recruitment and retention of students of color in underrepresented programs

• A community dialogue to reconsider the name of the business school

• Deans and faculty will review SU’s curricula to ensure that our academic programs reflect and support the diversity of our history and society

• Continued work by PRIDE (President’s Representatives on Inclusion, Diversity & Equity)

- Summer online & in-person conversations about Diversity and Inclusiveness

- Increased financial support for the work of PRIDE and Mosaic Center

Now, after the community dialogue on the business school, they say the School of Business will join the School of Health Professions, the College of Arts & Sciences, and the Shenandoah Conservatory by not carrying an individual’s name.

In 1984, the Board of Trustees of Shenandoah College and Conservatory voted to honor Sen. Harry F. Byrd, Jr., a former state and U.S. senator, by naming the Shenandoah School of Business Administration after him.

Byrd, a Virginia native and resident of Winchester, went on to become a distinguished lecturer at Shenandoah, where he spoke about his experience in government and being the first person in history to be elected to the Senate twice as an Independent.

Byrd died in 2013.

While the Senator shared with many individuals later in life that he had changed his mind with regard to educational access, Shenandoah University says Byrd’s belief in the segregation of schools in the 1950s and his actions as a Virginia state senator on behalf of the Massive Resistance effort in Virginia run counter to their strategic plan and mission of "establishing a campus culture that fully embraces inclusion and diversity."

“The board and I understand that we cannot be an institution that serves all students equitably when our business school still holds the name of an individual who denied full integration of schools,” said President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D. “Although we cannot change history, we have the power to build a better future in which everyone is treated with respect and receives the same opportunities, regardless of race or ethnicity. With life comes experiences, relationships and education that illuminate historical injustices and help us better understand the injustices in our world today. That is what has happened here at Shenandoah. It is during this time in our national history, in which Black individuals continue to experience daily and systemic acts of racism, that we must stand up and act swiftly in order to move forward to a more fair and equitable future.”

Shenandoah University has formally denounced racial injustice and, in addition to the steps outlined above, is also establishing a review of its curricula to ensure that academic programs reflect and support the diversity of history and society.

A virtual forum was held Wednesday with the university titled “Past, Present & Future: An Open Forum on the Naming of the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business.” Hundreds of Shenandoah students, staff and faculty members, alumni, and members of the Shenandoah community joined

online to express their thoughts and concerns about the name of the university’s business school.