Thomas Nelson history professor Stacey Schneider is working on what she calls the most vital project she has done, and might ever do, for the College. She is on the committee that was created to consider a name change for the institution and its buildings.
“I have thought about this every minute since I joined this task force,” she said in a YouTube video the committee produced. “I actually consider this a tremendous opportunity. I really do. I’ve said this before to people, this is probably the most important contribution as a history professor here I’ll make in my entire career. I take it that seriously. I see this as an unbelievable opportunity.”
In July, Virginia’s State Board for Community Colleges asked each of the 23 institutions within Virginia's Community Colleges (VCCS) to examine their naming policies and procedures. While the state board approves the names for each institution and campus, the colleges have the autonomy to name their buildings and classrooms. A press release at the time read, in part, “VCCS Chancellor Glenn DuBois had written to college presidents, noting ‘institutions far and wide are examining, and in many cases exorcising, symbols of systemic racism that have existed in plain sight for years. I believe we must join this conversation and focus a high level of scrutiny on the names that adorn our facilities.’”
Dr. Gregory DeCinque, interim president, established Thomas Nelson’s College and Facilities Renaming Task Force to examine this issue further.
Schneider and the others on the task force have completed their historical research on the College’s namesake and the namesakes of the buildings. There is a two-part YouTube series, the first one about 55 minutes, and the second about 41, called “Seeing Both Sides: Reconsidering the History of Thomas Nelson Jr. and Campus Building Namesakes.” The videos explore the historical points – good and bad – of those people.
In an email, Schneider wrote, “We would like to reach out to alumni, students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community to discuss the possibility of a name change.”
As such, the task force invites the community to an online open forum at 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11. The forum will feature opening comments by DeCinque and Thomas Nelson College Board Chair Mike Kuhns. Plus, Schneider will be available to answer questions about her research.
The online session will allow for open discussion and include a survey to collect feedback that will become part of Thomas Nelson’s Naming and Facilities report. The report is in response to a VCCS resolution adopted in July called “Reviewing the Appropriateness of Community College Facility Names."
Schneider said the process is just as important as any decisions that are to be made.
“I think it helps us define who we are, what’s our role in the community, and I think it clarifies the values that are important to us,” she said.