Two weeks ago, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by a student at George Washington University calling for the administration to change the name of the university. He also wants to change the motto, the mascot, and even the names on some of the buildings on campus. The reason as you might have guessed is racism.
A few commentators have pointed to the irony of the fact that the student’s op-ed that wanted to change the university’s name of Washington appeared in the Washington Post. Of course, it has that name because the name of the city is Washington.
But I might say to the student who is a senior (and I assume will graduate soon) that he should act on his convictions and drop out of this university. He knows that the name won’t be changed, and so he will have the name of a founder he believes is a racist on his diploma. Does he not understand that George Washington University will be on every resume he ever submits to an employer? Does he not understand that if someone asks him where he went to school, he will have to say the name George Washington? Don’t just virtue signal, act on your convictions. Drop out of the university you contend has not addressed “the main issues of systemic racism and inequality still present on campus.”
But first things first. If we should change the name of a university named for a founder who did have slaves and released them at his death, shouldn’t we first change the name of a university that carries the name of a man who was responsible for overseeing its slave trade in America? That would be Yale University. Elihu Yale may not have owned slaves, but he did oversee the slave trade.
Of course, Yale won’t change its name because that brand is recognized worldwide. But it would make as much sense to change the name of Yale University as to change the name of George Washington University.