In response to student petitions, the University of Miami’s Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has announced the renaming of three UM buildings and other changes that student-led petitions have called for.
In a campus-wide email sent out Monday night, Chair Hilarie Bass and President Julio Frenk wrote, “We have determined that this is a moment to honor the accomplishments, contributions and legacies of Black role models in the naming of buildings for the first time in university history, reaffirming our commitment to belonging and justice.”
The buildings being renamed include the rehearsal hall at the Frost School of Music and the structure on Merrick Drive, which was previously referred to as the Merrick Garage. Additionally, the Student Services Center will be named after a yet-to-be-determined Black alumnus. This is something that students on campus have petitioned for as well.
George Merrick, the founder of Coral Gables who helped create UM, was a known racist and segregationist, which led students to petition to have his name taken off buildings around UM in July 2020 following similar movements around the country.
The rehearsal hall was previously named after Henry Fillmore, who according to UM’s email, “used patently offensive language and images to promote his music,” and his work was filled with “racist caricatures that amounted to dehumanizing Black people.”
The petition explicitly called for the renaming of the Solomon G. Merrick Building.
However, in spite of George Merrick’s racist past and the petition, university leaders have decided to retain his fathers name on the Solomon G. Merrick Building.
Bass and Frenk addressed this in the email writing, “We do not believe that individuals should be judged by the shortcomings of their family members.”
For the buildings that will be receiving new names, a committee appointed by the board of trustees, students, faculty and alumni will have input on what the names will be.
Lastly, the email announced that in response to an additional student petition for a Black Cultural Center, UM leaders are starting plans for a “gathering space that facilitates community building and fosters a greater sense of inclusion and belonging.”
According to the email, the project will cost $3 million and the space will be nearly 13,000 square feet and will be located on the second floor of the University Center.