Students and community members packed the Multi-Purpose Room in the Student Union Building last week awaiting the fate of the names for Bevier Hall, Crispell Hall, Deyo Hall, Dubois Hall, Hasbrouck Dining Hall and LeFevre Hall, named for original Huguenot patentees of the Village of New Paltz who also owned enslaved people. This was the first meeting of the College Council since November at which the vote on the resolution was tabled.
On Thursday, Feb. 21 the College Council voted 4-3 to approve the resolution to change the names of these six buildings in the Hasbrouck complex. The decision was met with thundering applause and a standing ovation from those in attendance.
“I’m so pleased with this forward-looking outcome,” said President Donald P. Christian in a campus-wide email. “It is the right move for the campus at this time, as we strive to be a leader in meeting the educational needs of all New Yorkers. Indeed, I regard this as a historic moment for the College, and I am grateful to the College Council for their support.”
The successful resolution to rename the buildings is further supported by the student government, faculty senate, the Board of Trustees of Campus Auxiliary Services, the Executive Committee of the New Paltz chapter of United University Professionals (the union that represents academic and professional faculty), Village of New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers and Deputy Mayor KT Tobin and multiple academic departments.
The new names for the buildings are yet to be determined based on the results of a campus-wide survey taken by over 3,000 students, community members – including Hasbrouck descendents – alumni and faculty and staff as reported by council member Vincent Cozzolino. The preferred name for the dining hall was Hawk Hall. Other recommended names for the remaining buildings included Maratanza Hall, Pond Hall, Awosting Hall, Minnewaska Hall, Mohonk Hall, Peregrine Hall, Ashokan Hall, Sunset Hall, Tamarack Hall and Shawangunk Hall.
The authority to name buildings or change building names at SUNY campuses rests with the campus College Council, and thereafter with the SUNY Board of Trustees. This task is to be completed at the council’s next spring meeting.
“I suggest that those who feel strongly about something take the courage to become part of a position that can help execute your vision,” said Senator and Chairman of the Social Justice Coalition Committee Dilenia Santos. “A vision that includes all and oppresses none. I was a part of change, I am honored and humbled.”
Prior to the vote, Student Association President and voting College Council member N’Della Seque expressed that students are tired of waiting for a decision on an issue that has had such intense dialogue on this campus since August 2017.
“We are tired of the treatment people of color have received when it comes to their opinion,” she said. “Students of color are tired of having a place that does not fit them or does not represent them.”
College Council member Robert J. DiCarlo lived in LeFevre Hall and served on the council for 16 years. DiCarlo expressed his continued opposition to the name change prior to the vote.
“What we are voting on today is not simply the removal of names,” he said. “When we vote on this measure we are also voting on the doctrines that are being used to support it, doctrines such as intergenerational racial blood guilt that, if unchecked, threaten to cripple the students and whom they are inculcated, and could ultimately destroy our nation.”
After the vote, DiCarlo announced his resignation from the College Council, pending an official letter of resignation, he would leave one of four seats open. According to Assistant Director of Media Relations Chrissie Williams, in order to fill one or more of these seats, the college is consulted by State University of New York (SUNY) System Administration officials for recommendations from the campus who work directly with the Governor’s appointments office. The Governor’s appointments office also confers with the County Party Chairpersons for recommendations.
Michael E. Catalinotto also opposed the measure, citing two letters from descendants of the original founders also opposing the name change.
“It’s become a mantra that this is not an erasure of history, this is not a rewrite of history, but what is it?” he said.
Eleanor Venables also opposed the measure while Seque, Cozzolino, Eli B. Basch and Ronald Law all voted in favor of the resolution.
Seque said that she is very happy that this issue is finally resolved after 21 years and a process that she had been a part of since 2017 has finally come to an end.
“We worked really hard on this resolution and gaining support from everyone else,” she said. “I’m just happy that the resolution passed. It wasn’t everybody but we still got the majority vote and I’m extremely happy.”
The current names will remain on the Hasbrouck buildings to “ensure day-to-day functioning and safety measures for residents and the campus community” according to Christian’s email. The college will plan a renaming ceremony once approvals for new names are reached. The next meeting of the College Council has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 6 at 3 p.m. in the college terrace with a resolution regarding replacement names for the Hasbrouck Building Complex on the agenda.
Christian has also announced that the college plans to develop a contemplative space on campus, as recommended by the Diversity & Inclusion Council, to preserve and present the college’s history. As Christian pointed out in his report at the beginning of the meeting of the College Council, when the buildings were originally named in the 1950s, the broader history of enslaved and indigenous peoples had been neglected and this name change is an opportunity to make amends to the past.
This space and other educational materials and programming will highlight the history of the original Huguenot settlers and their link to slavery, the history of enslaved Africans and their descendants, the history of the indigenous people before and after European settlement and the many positive contributions of Huguenot descendants.
“I am committed to ensuring that we continue to keep the Huguenot names and the many contributions of these families alive on our campus,” Christian said.
Seque hopes that future students will see and appreciate what they were able to accomplish.
“This is a new point in history… it’s not only about the present, it’s about the future of diversity and inclusion,” she said.