Spurred by years of pressure from students, Towson University has removed the names of two prominent slave-owning Marylanders from dormitory buildings after the University System of Maryland board of regents voted last week to allow the college to rename them.
The unanimous approval comes one year after Towson formed a 10-member committee of students, faculty and staff members to decide if it was appropriate to rename the buildings under the university’s current naming guidelines. Before the college can pick new designations, the university system had to green-light it.
The committee is now tasked with recommending how to replace the existing titles of Paca House and Carroll Hall — student housing buildings named for William Paca and Charles Carroll, both elected officials who enslaved hundreds and signed the Declaration of Independence.
In a January report, the renaming committee wrote that designating the buildings in honor of slave-owners was not in keeping with college guidelines. The dorms were named before Towson codified its naming policy in 2017.
University leadership at the time — Paca House was opened in 2008 and Carroll Hall in 2015 — neglected to consult students or faculty on the name selection, Towson University president Kim Schatzel wrote in a letter to the regents regarding the renaming committee’s research.
The honorifics would not have been granted to Paca and Carroll under current college naming policy, the renaming committee concluded, given that the slave owners’ unethical behavior and disregard for equity and diversity aren’t aligned with the college’s professed values.
“While the owning of enslaved people was legal in the colony and the state of Maryland during both Paca’s and Carroll’s lives, there were many, even among the slaveholding elite, who had begun to express doubts about the morality of slaveholding during that era,” Schatzel wrote.
“There is no evidence that either Paca or Carroll shared those doubts,” she added.
Carroll and Paca were among Marylanders who owned the largest numbers of slaves, according to the committee review. The report says Paca had at least 100 slaves when he died in 1799. Carroll enslaved as many as 500 people, committee members found. Both also trafficked slaves.
The pair had no direct tie to the college, which was established in 1866, decades after Paca and Carroll died, according to the committee report.
Schatzel in a letter to the regents acknowledged Paca and Carroll’s “contributions as founding fathers of our nation and of our state were significant and notable.”
Carroll was one of the state’s first U.S. senators. Paca, Maryland’s third governor, helped draft the Bill of Rights.
But “how we can ask our students to accept living and sleeping in a residence hall that, as one student told me, ‘was named after a man that enslaved my ancestors and tortured them as part of his daily life?’” she wrote.
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Various student groups over the years have sought to change the names of the buildings — most recently Tigers for Justice, which garnered more than 6,700 signatures on a petition demanding the names’ removal.
Before that, resolutions to change the name were passed by the Student Senate over three consecutive Student Government Association administrations.
“Given the collective outrage of the Towson University student body and supporters of our institution,” the names should be “changed with the utmost urgency,” wrote Maman Deguene Ndiong, SGA president, in a letter to Schatzel last June.
The renaming process will begin in the fall, said Schatzel in an email to faculty and staff, shared with The Sun. Deciding new designations will require input from the university’s three shared governance bodies; the Academic Senate, Staff Senate and SGA.
The Academic Senate will decide which names to forward to Schatzel for approval. The board of regents must vote to accept them.
Per the university’s renaming guidelines, the dorms could be named for significant state landmarks, notable Marylanders or alum and faculty who have departed the University System of Maryland at least one year prior.
Until the college approves new names, the dorms will be identified as “West Village 1” and “West Village 2”on the dorm buildings and campus maps, Schatzel wrote.