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Naming Review Task Force

June 25, 2020

Dear Tulane Community:

Great universities are transformative places that welcome a diversity of thoughts, perspectives and cultures. They should inspire anti-racist attitudes and action by not only educating individuals but awakening them to the value and dignity of all.

In the past couple of weeks, many individuals have come forward with stories of anti-Black racist behavior that they have witnessed or experienced at Tulane either recently or in the past. I want the community to know that we take all reports of racism, hatred and threats of violence very seriously. Such instances have either been, or will be, thoroughly investigated, and all responsible parties held accountable. While we cannot respond to incidents and reports via social media, know that we are committed to addressing all reported incidents through our university processes. If you have experienced or witnessed such behavior, please report it to Tulane.edu/concerns.

In a recent university-wide message, I announced a number of initiatives to combat racism and discrimination impacting the lives of people of color in our community. As I stated in that message, we are at a pivotal time in our country and our university. Each of us is challenged to address our behaviors and practices, our beliefs, and the systems in which we participate. In recent years, we have made progress together toward creating a more diverse, equitable and inclusive university. But we must do more to make Tulane a truly welcoming and supportive home for all.

I write today to provide an update on our continuing efforts. This work is an ongoing focus of our university and its success is central to our mission – racism has no place in our community.

Naming Review Task Force

Many have expressed anger and frustration regarding those places on campus with designations whose history is at odds with the university we are today and the one we hope to become. You have raised fundamental questions about the values of our community. We hear you.

That is why I am appointing a task force, as noted in my June 12 letter, to develop community-wide principles to guide our decisions in naming or renaming our buildings. The task force will have broad student, faculty, staff and alumni representation. I am also asking the task force to utilize these new guidelines to provide a recommendation to the Board, consistent with legal requirements, regarding Hebert Hall by September 30 (if possible) – the name of which USG and others have long sought to change. Going forward, we will apply these principles to review building naming more generally. The task force will be chaired by Thomas LaVeist, Dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and Weatherhead Presidential Chair in Health Equity; Ana Lopez, Professor of Communication, Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs; and Thomas Reese, Executive Director of the Stone Center for Latin American Studies and Distinguished Chair in Latin American Studies.

Through these and other endeavors, we will continue to address racism in our community. Only by working together can we become the best version of ourselves, both institutionally and individually, and build a better Tulane.

Mike Fitts