Board of Trustees: Principal Deane talks new policy for naming buildings

After de-naming the law building, Deane suggests a moratorium on namings across University

Deane praised recent student achievement during his report.
Journal File Photo

The Board of Trustees gathered for its final meeting of the year over Zoom last Friday.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about things that have gone well for the University and rightly turning our minds to things that need to be improved at Queen’s,” Mary Wilson Trider, chair of the Board of Trustees, told the Board. “I do want to congratulate all of the people across the University community that we’ve heard or read about in the past several months who’ve won awards, who have received grants, who have had academic achievements.” 

“They are all evidence of the things that we have to be proud of at Queen’s and the excellent work that happens at Queen’s. It’s important for us, as we consider the things that need to be fixed, that we also take time to celebrate the things that we do well.”

Principal’s Report 

Principal Patrick Deane continued to praise recent student accomplishments during his report to the Board.

“Coinciding with the [National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women], commemorations at the École Polytechnique saw a Queen’s masters of engineering student receive the Order of the White Rose scholarship,” Deane said. 

Brielle Thorsen, current master’s student in mechanical engineering and 2020 graduate in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics, is the 2020 recipient of the $30,000 scholarship. 

“This is a very significant scholarship that’s a tribute to the victims’ family members, faculty, employees, and students of the 1989 massacre at École Polytechnique in Montreal,” Deane said. 

“Brielle is an exceptional recipient of this award because she’s a proud Cree woman who has plans to apply her knowledge working in sustainable energy to benefit Indigenous communities in the North.”

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Deane also pointed to the two Queen’s students, Matthew Hynes and Jevon Marsh, who were announced as recipients of the Rhodes Scholarship. The scholarship to the University of Oxford is worth more than $100,000. 

“To have a Rhodes Scholar in any year is not that unusual at our institution given the calibre of students we have here, but this year we have two out of the eleven total Canadian students receiving Rhodes Scholarships,” Deane said. 

“That’s a really remarkable achievement and something to be proud of.”

Hynes, a second-year medical student, and Marsh, who recently earned a master’s degree in chemistry, have increased Queen’s total number of Rhodes Scholars to 60.

Moratorium on naming buildings

Deane also addressed the recent de-naming of the building housing the Faculty of Law. After community consultations throughout the summer, the Board approved the removal of Sir John A. MacDonald’s name from the building Oct. 19.

 “As directed by the Board, I’ve begun the work of developing a policy framework for University namings, which would include namings, de-namings, and even re-namings,” Deane said.

“We all realized in the discussion that had to do with the recent de-naming of the Law building that there are significant holes in our policy framework for dealing with these kinds of things.”

Deane said the University lacks a de-naming policy and added that naming is a “complex” process because of the intent behind the action. 

“There’s the purpose to consider: we have philanthropic namings, recognition of service namings, commemorative namings, and Indigenous namings,” Deane said. “We have to consider all of these things: the honorific and historic contexts of namings and think about the current needs and future concerns of the University in this regard.”

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Deane has formed a working group from the Office of the Principal and the Secretariat to develop a policy framework including the University’s naming principles to inform all future naming procedures. 

The working group will collaborate with University Relations and the Office of Advancement on the project. 

Deane has also enlisted the help of Professor Stephanie Dickey in the department of art history and art conservation. Dickey is an art historian who’s creating an inventory of all namings on campus.

“[The inventory] will be an important instrument in helping us determine the scope of the issues here and help us get a comprehensive view of what namings and commemorations exist on campus and what processes have historically been applied to those namings and commemorations.”

He also said the University will review similar policies at other institutions, work with an external consultant, and complete “extensive” consultation in both the Queen’s and broader community. 

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While the policy is under development, Deane suggested the Board have a moratorium on any further namings except for those already proposed or under consideration.

“In order to minimize problems in the future, we shouldn’t be entertaining any proposals until such time that we’ve got the policy instruments in place,” Deane said.

However, Deane also suggested the possibility of using discretion about namings until the policy is finalized, which could take “the better part of a year.”

Wilson Trider said the discussion about the moratorium will be continued in later meetings between Deane and the Trustees. 

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