The names are being changed because the buildings’ namesakes, the founding families of the town, owned slaves prior to slavery’s abolition in New York State. The new building names pay homage to local geographic features. They will be assigned to the campus buildings to mirror their actual locations – for instance, Lefevre Hall, the eastern-most of the buildings, will become Shawangunk Hall, because the Shawangunk Ridge is the eastern-most of these features.
“I understand the sensitivity of the topic, but redefining history in your own image is not the answer,” said Roland Hasbrouck.
Six campus buildings that carried the name of the town’s original Huguenot settlers, who owned slaves, will be named for local places, Native American tribes and a bird.
Five buildings named for the town’s Huguenot founders will have their names changed this year. The new names haven’t been decided yet. Suggested alternatives include: Maratanza, Pond, Awosting, Minnewaska, Mohonk, Hawk, Peregrine, Ashokan, Sunset, Tamarack and Shawangunk halls.
“These buildings were named for the original Huguenot patentees who were the first European settlers in New Paltz,” wrote college president Donald Christian. “Like other Europeans who settled in New York and other mid-Atlantic states, they enslaved Africans. The campus building names have been contentious on campus for many years, and official action to review them was long overdue.”
Several students expressed discomfort, one likening it to being Jewish and living in “Hitler Hall.” Members of the community tended to express support for having a dialogue, but more likely to defend the wider legacy of the town’s founding families.
The university’s Diversity and Inclusion Council will take up the question this year. What do you think?
In a response to a petition calling for a change to the name of the campus dining hall to honor a long-time employee, SUNY New Paltz president Donald P. Christian said he’d ask the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Council to look at the pros and cons or retaining or replacing the names of campus buildings named for the town’s earliest Huguenot settlers, who were slaveholders.