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Brief: Western’s Board of Trustees delay final decision on renaming Huxley College

The Board of Trustees hope to make their final decision on the potential renaming at their meeting in December

The Huxley College of the Environment building on Western Washington University’s campus. The Board of Trustees were supposed to make a final decision on whether or not to remove the Huxley name at their meeting on Oct. 8 but decided to postpone. // Photo by Katie McNabb

The Board of Trustees discussed the potential name change of Huxley College of the Environment at their meeting on Friday, Oct. 8 but decided not to make a final decision.

The potential name change has been a topic of discussion since the spring of 2020, but official steps to change it weren’t made until Western’s Black Student Organization released their list of demands in June 2020, which included renaming Huxley.

The Legacy Review Task Force was made in response to the list of demands, and they have been tasked with investigating the significance of building names on Western’s campus. Huxley College of the Environment is named for Thomas Huxley, an English scientist from the 1800s who has been criticized for his views on eugenics and white supremacy. While many support removing his name from the College of the Environment, others have pushed back on efforts because some believe it is unfair to judge him by contemporary standards. 

The Task Force has been primarily focused on Huxley, but in the report they submitted to the Board of Trustees this summer, they also recommended that Mathes Hall, Haggard Hall and Viking Union be considered for renaming.

There was very little discussion of any building names besides Huxley at the Board of Trustees meeting. In past board meetings, President Sabah Randhawa and other members of the administration have indicated that removing “Viking” from Viking Union is very unlikely.   

Despite the in-depth discussion that occurred between the Board of Trustees, Task Force members and other concerned individuals over the renaming of Huxley, the Board of Trustees ultimately decided not to make a decision at the Oct. 8 meeting, as previously planned.

Karen Lee, the only Black member of the Board of Trustees, spoke at the meeting about why making a decision about the name change has proven so difficult.

“As a Black female Trustee, I don’t know that it’s appropriate that I put all my personal feelings aside. So certainly, having the additional time, I think, is important because this is a weighty issue, and we want to be the best that we can on the right side of history,” Lee said.

The Board of Trustees is hoping to make their final decision on the name change at their December meeting. The full Task Force report, which summarizes the research and reasoning behind the proposed name changes, can be viewed here.


Katie McNabb

Katie McNabb (she/her) is a third-year English: Creative Writing major with a minor in Journalism. Her work focuses on campus news, usually related to sustainability. You can reach her at katiemcnabb.thefront@gmail.com.


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