Shenandoah University removes name of Harry F. Byrd Jr. from school of business

Virginia

WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM)–After a vote by the Board of Trustees, Shenandoah University has voted to change the name of its School of Business.

The 38-member Board of Trustees voted unanimously to remove the name, Harry F. Byrd, Jr. from the institution’s School of Business.

“That name felt like an impediment to feeling comfortable,” said Astrid Sheil, Dean of the School of Business.

Harry F. Byrd, Jr. was a former state and U.S. senator who revealed his support for racism, particularly in education as he opposed desegregating schools. Byrd, Jr. was a lecturer at the school and passed away in 2013.

“He was a very important figure in Virginia history. He was both noble and ignoble. He did both things that were great for the community and things that were not,” said Sheil.

“The board and I understand that we cannot be an institution that serves all students equitably when our business school still holds the name of an individual who denied full integration of schools,” said President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D.

The decision to remove the name came after a Shenandoah University student started a petition regarding the name change. Students and staff held a forum before the board voted. The forum was titled, “Past, Present & Future: An Open Forum on the Naming of the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business.”

The decision to name the business school after Byrd, Jr. was approved by the Board of Trustees in 1984. That was before the Byrd family made any monetary donations to the school.

“The senator will never be forgotten in our school and I hope going forward we continue our great relationship with the Byrd family,” said Sheil.

Shenandoah University says this is an important teaching moment and plans to continue to take steps towards racial justice.

Shenandoah University is also working on enacting several measures to improve its school community. This includes an anonymous system to report discrimination and additional diversity and inclusion training for all members of the university community.

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