The Virginia Dare Room at the Alumni House at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) is still named the Virginia Dare Room following action of the UNCG Board of Trustees on Thursday, Dec. 3.
It may not seem like the Board of Trustees would have to take action not to rename something, but in this case it did.
Trustee Mae Douglas, in her report on the University Advancement Committee, said that the Alumni House Committee hada voted to change the name of the Virginia Dare Room back to the name used between 1937 (when the Alumni House opened) and 1948 – the Great Hall.
Douglas said, “Name changes within the Alumni House are the exclusive purview of the Alumni House Committee.”
Douglas said that the name change was made at the request of Dr. Andrea Hunter, representing the faculty Senate, who “shared with [Vice Chancellor for Advancement] Beth Fischer that the Virginia Dare Room murals do not represent UNCG values. Once these values were shared with Beth, the Alumni House Committee recommended, based on the lack of connection to our campus and the non-inclusive nature of the name, that we change the name of the room.”
It was noted that the Virginia Dare Room was never officially named but people started referring to it as the Virginia Dare Room because of the large mural of the baptism of Virginia Dare, which was painted for the room when it opened in 1937.
The Alumni House Committee also voted to remove the mural.
Trustee Dean Priddy asked, “What was it about the mural doesn’t represent university values?”
Beth Fischer said, “The artwork, as well as the name, has represented a bit of a whitewashing of our history, and further the Virginia Dare name is now used by a foundation that has clear white supremacy and anti-immigration policies.”
That explanation didn’t sit well with some trustees. Ward Russell, who made the motion for the name not to be changed and for the board to further study naming policies, said, “I just think the board needs to step up in this case. I don’t think we need to cede the responsibility for namings because we don’t know what is out there and we shouldn’t cede that to anyone else and it shouldn’t be driven by a Washington Post opinion piece.”
Russell also said about Virginia Dare, “I didn’t realize that she was a white supremacist.”
The Board of Trustees approved the motion not to change the name of the Virginia Dare Room and to study its naming policy by a 7-4 vote.
Virginia Dare is considered to be the first English person born in what is now the United States, and about the only facts known about her was that she was born on August 18, 1587 and baptized on August 24, 1587. She was a part of the Lost Colony that originally settled on Roanoke Island and disappeared between 1587 and 1590. Since that time there has been endless speculation about what happened to the colonists.