East Carolina University’s Board of Trustees (BOT) Athletics and Advancement Committee met on Feb. 11 to discuss the proposal to change the names of five campus buildings. The committee voted for the Ad Hoc Naming Committee to create a set of standards for decisions made in regard to the proposal to be voted on at the next BOT meeting on March 31.
The buildings designated to be renamed in the proposal include Jarvis Hall, Joyner (West) Library, Fleming Hall, Joyner East and Cotten Hall. Interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson said the individuals who the buildings are named after represent “white supremacists.”
Michelson created the Ad Hoc Naming Committee in October 2020 to research the individuals whose names were on the five campus buildings. The committee looked over three criteria while examining the building names: reputation of the individual, the reputation of the individual in association with the university and the focus on the concerns of students, staff and faculty.
According to Michelson, the Ad Hoc Naming Committee has received support from the School of Communication for the removal of the name James Joyner. Joyner “lead the department of public instruction with his words and actions a clear white supremacist,” Michelson said.
ECU BOT member Vern Davenport said he agreed with the Ad Hoc Naming Committee’s decision to create a set of standards for the naming of the buildings. He said the university must move forward with the decision as the university is committed to diversity, social justice and equality.
We, the editorial staff of The East Carolinian, believe Mitchelson’s proposal to the ECU BOT for the building name change is needed, as ECU stands for diversity and inclusion. While we understand Michelson is not able to recommend a building to be named after himself, we believe the work he has contributed to the university, such as stepping in the role of interim chancellor in an unprecedented way, qualifies one of the five buildings to be named after him.
As Mitchelson is expected to retire in June after 42 years of work in higher education, we believe a building name change should be made to honor his contributions to ECU.
Michelson has worked at the university since 1999 as a professor, Chair of the Department of Geography and provost, from 2015 to October 2019.