In over a year-long effort by the University of New Mexico to reconsider its racist building names, the next potential step forward is the formation of an academic team to write a formal report recommending the names to either be removed or not.
The UNM Committee on Naming, which normally researches the honorees behind proposed building names, plans to suggest before August that President Garnett Stokes create the specialized panel to review and possibly recommend the renaming of campus buildings bearing the names of Spanish conquistadors.
UNM President Garnett Stokes kicked off the reexamination of building names last June, when she asked the Committee on Naming to review how renaming is treated under Policy 1020, the current UNM naming policy; this occurred just four days after a counter-protester shot a man protesting conquistador Juan de Oñate’s statue outside the Albuquerque Museum.
The newly proposed report would give Stokes documented basis to recommend the removal or retention of those building names to the Board of Regents, who have final say in the matter, according to the head of the Committee on Naming, Cinnamon Blair.
When the Committee on Naming formally suggests the report to Stokes before August, they will request that she approach the Faculty Senate with the idea, Blair said.
According to Blair, the report would be “faculty-driven” and “go into a number of details about the history and the impact of these names and go through each of the names and/or facilities that have been brought up as controversial,” including at least the four buildings named after conquistadors: Oñate, Coronado, DeVargas and Alvarado.
The Committee on Naming won’t outline the report’s team members, how they’re picked or the specific organization of the report, Blair said. Instead, Stokes and the Faculty Senate would hash out those details.
The report would be a “great opportunity for our academic community to bring to bear research methods and expertise that we already have on campus” and could include undergraduate or graduate researchers, according to Finnie Coleman, Faculty Senate president.
“Removing the name of a building is a consequential decision that requires careful study and thoughtful consideration of different viewpoints from the entire campus community,” the Committee on Naming wrote to Stokes in a memo from September.
Kiva Club co-president Shereena Baker said the narrative, which has so long been from a white colonial perspective, has been adapting to a point where “we as intellectuals” can and should have mature conversations about difficult topics.
“There should be a lot of Indigenous people represented on that (team),” Baker said. “All voices and all opinions should be considered.”
Picking new names should not fall on one group nor happen only within the UNM community, Baker said. Baker also stressed that it hurts more than helps if inclusion and diversity efforts welcome new voices but fail to properly compensate them for their time and labor.
UNM’s naming policy doesn’t cover name removal for buildings named before 2001 — the year the Committee on Naming was created — which is why the Committee on Naming recommended that Stokes appoint a special team to address the issue, according to the memo sent in September.
If the Regents were to remove any names, renaming would revert to current UNM policy, which starts with the dean or director of the building submitting a potential name to the Committee on Naming. However, according to Blair, if the name is not that of a person or family, the submission then goes directly to the Board of Regents.
Gabriel Saiz is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gsaiz83
Correction: A previous version of the cutline for the photo in this article said Alvarado Hall was named after Pedro de Alvarado, which has since been updated to the correct name, Hernando de Alvarado.