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Student Council votes to support Alderman Library name change

The council also passed a resolution that would memorialize the “U.Va. Strong” painting on Beta Bridge

While calls to rename the building have been voiced since long before the end of renovations, Alderman Library's reopening has further spurred University discourse surrounding the topic.
While calls to rename the building have been voiced since long before the end of renovations, Alderman Library's reopening has further spurred University discourse surrounding the topic.


Student Council members passed a resolution to support an open letter urging the Board of Visitors to change Alderman Library’s name due to the namesake’s history of racist beliefs and contributions to eugenicist practices at the University. In a 22-0 vote with two representatives abstaining, the Council called upon the Rector and Board of Visitors to change the library’s name to instead honor the University’s fourth president, Edgar Shannon. 

Ahead of the Board of Visitors vote, the Minority Rights Coalition wrote an open letter urging the Board to vote in favor of the library’s name change. According to Tichara Robertson, Student Council president and fourth-year College student, the letter has already garnered roughly 800 signatures from the University community. 

While community members have called for the University to rename the building since long before the renovations which ended this winter, Alderman Library's reopening has further spurred University discourse surrounding the topic. The Board tabled a proposal to rename the library during their December meeting, postponing the vote until their March session. 

“We are a university that touts our tradition of student self governance, and we see it now as an essential fact that … Alderman's time doesn't really reflect [our diverse values],” Robertson said. “In fact, a lot of the student leaders we see today would not have been accepted at U.Va. at the time when Alderman was here.” 

Alderman was initially elected to serve as the University’s first president upon the Board’s decision to create the position in 1904.

During Alderman’s time as the University’s first president, he expanded the University’s “eugenic science” programs across several schools including the College, School of Medicine and School of Education and Human Development. According to the open letter and the Council’s resolution, the pseudoscientific eugenics research conducted during his time presiding over the University was later used to justify atrocities such as the Holocaust. 

Despite supporting eugenics studies at the University, Alderman was recognized as a proponent of expanding education access for certain marginalized groups, namely women. The Council’s resolution considered this aspect of his legacy, but ultimately justified renaming the library by citing the same logic used to rename other buildings on Grounds. Such buildings include the School of Education, which was renamed in 2020 due to past namesake Jabez Curry’s pro-segregation views, and Warner Hall, which was renamed in 2022 due to past namesake Matthew Maury’s service as a navy commander for the Confederate army. 

Several Council members cosponsored the resolution, including Robertson, fourth-year College rep. Tyler Busch, Imane Akhanous, chair of community concerns and second-year College rep., Andreas Masiakos, representative body chair and third-year College student, Violette Cadet, vice president for organizations and fourth-year College student and Holly Sims, vice president for administration and Batten student. 

“We recognize the University’s desire to honor Edwin Alderman,” the resolution’s sponsors wrote. “Alderman supported higher education for women and worked to expand the University’s extension educational services … we also recognize, however, that the harm Alderman caused far outweighs his positive contributions to U.Va.” 

The proposed alternative name, Shannon Library, would commemorate the fourth University President Edgar Shannon. According to Robertson, Shannon was known to advocate for students’ rights to protest against war, establishing non discriminatory policies post-integration and presiding over the University’s development into a coeducational institution. 

“[Shannon] is known for more progressive impacts on the University post-integration and at the height of student activism on Grounds,” Robertson said. “Shannon did embrace [progressivism at the University] more.”

The Council also passed a resolution sponsored by third-year College Rep. Jason Almas to memorialize the U.Va. Strong painting on Beta Bridge in a 23-0 vote with one abstention. 

The project, which would be completed in conjunction with the Fralin Museum of Art, would entail laser-cutting the paint before preserving it as a memorial. The resolution would support the painting’s relocation off of the bridge and into a to-be-decided accessible space where community members can visit it. 

The painting was originally created by University community members in remembrance of Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry, three students and football players who were killed in a shooting in Culbreth Garage Nov. 13, 2022. Both sides of the bridge were originally painted to remember the tragedy, but half of it has been painted over, with the other half deteriorated by weather and chipping, according to Almas. 

“I think it's something that means a lot to the community and something I think shouldn't just be subjected to the weather,” Almas said. “It also has the dual purpose of returning Beta Bridge to that conversation space … while also having the paint and the memorial displayed in a place where… students can remember those events and mourn appropriately.”

According to Almas, the $40,000 memorialization project would likely take place next semester, as funding cycles for this term are largely finished. Though Almas said there is no definite timeline for the project yet, he said he would meet with representatives from the Fralin to draft a full proposal. 


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