Tag Archives: Alderman Library

Why Alderman Was Cancelled

Dedicatory plaque to be retained.

Richard Gard, editor of the University of Virginia Alumni Association’s Virginia Magazine, has written a detailed account of why the Renaming and Memorials Committee recommended the removal of Edwin Alderman’s name from the newly renovated Alderman Library. The article delves into the paternalistic and condescending views of UVA’s first president toward Blacks and his support for eugenics, as well as the accomplishments of Edgar F. Shannon Jr., whose name is replacing Alderman’s on the library. It’s worth a read.

What’s missing from the article is any explanation of why, in the face of views that are so distasteful today, someone might oppose removing Alderman’s name. There is only the slightest hint that Alderman’s views on race might actually have represented a forward progression from the dominant sentiments of the time. There is no exploration of the idea that there is value in retaining the old memorials even as we reappraise, in light of evolving values, the individuals honored for their positive contributions. Continue reading

Alderman Cancelled

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors voted Friday afternoon to rename Alderman Library to Edgar Shannon Library. Other than an abstention by Paul Harris, the tally was unanimous. Stephen Long cast his vote “with reservations” but it counted as a “yes.”

The vote followed an extended closed session, which ran significantly over the scheduled time limit. The session had been preceded by a testy exchange between Hardie and Bert Ellis, who wanted to talk about the treatment of Jewish students at UVA, Hardie cut him off, saying, “We will discuss this in closed session.”

There is much more to be said about the Board’s discussion — or the stifling of discussion — about the treatment of Jews at UVA, and your humble correspondent will tell that story in the near future. For now, he will order a daquiri, retire to his hammock, and enjoy the fading moments of his Costa Rica vacation.


Alderman Name Change Contested at Board Meeting

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors took up the controversial issue Thursday of renaming the Alderman Library to the Edgar Shannon Library. Two board members expressed sharp objections to name change, but the Building & Grounds Committee voted to advance a resolution authorizing the change to the full board, which will take up the issue Friday.

Foes of the renaming called into question the process by which the Naming & Memorials Committee reached its decision to jettison the name of Edwin Alderman, UVA’s first president and architect of UVA’s transformation in the early 1900s into a modern university. The name of Edgar Shannon, who led the University through integration and the Vietnam War, has been suggested in Alderman’s place.

Paul C. Harris was the first board member to attack the recommendation. He criticized proponents of the name change for their confidence in their moral rectitude and their “unforgiving culture.” He was disappointed, Harris said, that the committee members spent so much time passing judgment on a historical figure so central to UVA’s history without acknowledging his transformative contributions.

Foes of the name change have assailed Alderman, who served between 1904 and 1931, for perpetuating segregation and supporting the eugenics movement. Under the proposal put before the Board, Alderman’s name would be removed from the building but the original dedication plaque crediting his role would remain in place. Continue reading

Tune In, Watch Edwin Alderman Get Canceled

by James A. Bacon

Tomorrow afternoon, Feb. 29, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors is scheduled to vote on renaming Alderman Library to the Edgar Shannon Library. The Jefferson Council urges friends of the Council to watch the event on live-streamed video. The board discussion, if any, will take place during time allotted for the Buildings & Grounds Committee between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Click here to watch the live stream.

A vote had been scheduled during the December 2013 Board meeting but the agenda item was withdrawn after it was clear that the administration lacked the votes to enact the name change. Now the administration is back, having recalculated the odds, although it may be getting a bit ahead of itself by titling the agenda item as “Renaming the Edgar Shannon Library,” not “Renaming the Alderman Library,” which is its name now and will be until the Board votes.

Support for the name change, as seen in posters on Library walls, has justified stuffing Edwin Alderman’s name down the memory hole on the grounds that the UVA president, who served between 1904 and 1931, was a racist who supported eugenics. Known as a “progressive” in the mold of Woodrow Wilson, Alderman also was one of the most consequential leaders in UVA’s history. Continue reading