GWU to discontinue Colonials moniker; input sought on renaming

The George Washington University in D.C. will no longer be known as the Colonials, the university announced Wednesday, and the process has begun to work out what the new moniker will be.

“The Board of Trustees has decided to accept the recommendation of the Special Committee on the Colonials Moniker and discontinue the use of the moniker by the 2023-24 academic year,” said Patty Carocci, the associate vice president for alumni relations and community giving, in a statement.

“The board recognizes the significance of changing the university’s moniker, and we made this decision only after a thoughtful and deliberate process that followed the renaming framework and special committee recommendation that considered the varying perspectives of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and athletics community,” said Board Chair Grace Speights.

“We have evolved over our 200 years as an institution and a community,” said Christopher Alan Bracey, the university’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “Today, the moniker no longer does the work that a moniker should—namely, unifying the campus behind our academic and athletic institutional aspirations.”

The university said it’ll select a firm to help with the renaming, as well as an advisory committee of university leaders, alumni and students.

“As with any change, I understand that this decision will have a mixed reception,” said GW Alumni Association President Christine Brown-Quinn. “It’s at times like these we need to remember that it’s our shared experiences as a GW community which bind us together.”

The university said in Wednesday’s statement that supporters of the name believed “the term refers to those who lived in the American colonies, especially those who fought for independence and democracy,” while opponents saw the name as memorializing “colonizers who stole land and resources from indigenous groups, killed or exiled Native peoples and introduced slavery into the colonies. These are perspectives that cannot be easily harmonized, the committee concluded.”

Historians told the renaming committee that George Washington himself “firmly rejected the term ‘colonial’ in the few times he used it,” the university added.

The university is seeking public comments on the process; you can submit your thoughts online.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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