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James Madison College considers name change, announces anti-racist agenda

July 14, 2020
<p>Case Hall photographed on June 26, 2019. </p>

Case Hall photographed on June 26, 2019.

Michigan State’s James Madison College will consider changing its name to advance an anti-racist agenda, according to its leaders. 

The name change consideration, as well as several other initiatives the college plans to take to promote racial equity, were announced in a letter signed by Interim Dean Linda Racioppi, Assistant Dean Jeff Judge and Director of Diversity Programming and Student Engagement Amber Benton.

The public affairs-oriented residential college, formed in 1967, took its name after former President and slave owner James Madison. 

Now, following other name changes in Michigan and across the country, such as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s renaming of the now-Elliott-Larsen Building, Madison’s name might be stripped from the college. 

“We ... are committed to creating a learning environment in which students can thrive as scholars and human beings,” the letter said. “As such, the College is taking steps to combat systemic racism and the perpetuation of whiteness and to probe how it can best support Students of Color, especially Black students.”

The college also plans to host workshops, consider curriculum revisions, increase intentional recruiting and retention efforts and create a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Strategic Plan. 

The DEI plan will “lay out a strategic agenda of action items, with benchmarks, deadlines, and measurable outcomes to meet the college’s goals.”

In effort to identify how to enhance the experience of Black students in the college, leaders will be meeting with the W.E.B. Du Bois Society to hear their concerns July 15. 

“We are determined to make a sustainable difference in our college community,” the letter said. “We welcome the efforts of anyone who is interested in supporting and investing in our students, staff, and faculty of color and in making the College a diverse, inclusive, and equitable institution.”

University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. released a statement on the matter, deeming the discussions about diversity and inclusion “appropriate.”

“I am aware of the interim dean of James Madison College planning for on-going dialogues regarding diversity, equity and inclusion concerns within her college, including the suitability of its name,” Stanley said. “While it is appropriate for the college to discuss diversity concerns, in addition to DEI efforts happening around our full campus, there is an administrative process for any renaming efforts that go beyond one college or unit.”

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