University of Maryland president Wallace Loh is recommending to the state system's board of regents that it change the name of Byrd Stadium, the home for Terps football since 1950.
The stadium is named for former Maryland president Curley Byrd, a segregationist whose racism has come under a microscope over the past few months. The venue's name change debate reflects unease over identifying with Byrd.
Loh recommends the stadium's name be changed to "Maryland Stadium." House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, in a statement shortly after Loh's letter was released, backed the move. Hoyer represents College Park in Congress and operates in the same political circles as many members of the USM board of regents.
In addition Loh recommends Maryland find a way to recognize Byrd at a university library, place a five-year moratorium on any honorific renaming of university buildings and "move from symbolic change to institutional improvements."
In the fall, Loh commissioned the Byrd Stadium Naming Work Group to examine whether the building's name should be changed. The committee passed on pros and cons of renaming the stadium to Loh, who is recommending the name change in advance of the University System of Maryland regents meeting on Friday.
The final decision on the naming of the stadium rests with those regents, not with Loh or his work group. The regents have placed the matter on their December agenda and are set to vote on it at the end of the week.
The state system lists a couple of criteria for the naming of buildings after human beings. In addition to "major positive contributions to society," being "known to the university community" and making contributions to the university and the state, there are requirements that a named-after person be of the "highest personal integrity" and have done "honorable" public service.
This has been a contentious debate in the past, as Loh alludes to in his letter to system administrators.
"Neither side's arguments can be ignored," Loh writes. "President Byrd positioned the institution for greatness, a process that his successors fulfilled. He has earned his place in our University's history. We can honor his accomplishments without intending any racial insensitivity or opposition to racial diversity today.
"Still, the world has changed," he writes. "Our society's and our institution's demographics have changed. The values that prevailed during the first half of the 20th century no longer define our nation and UMCP in the 21st century. We have evolved into a globally pre-eminent university committed to racial diversity and inclusion, respect for human dignity, and free expressionâvalues that undergird our academic excellence. We cannot move forward by looking through the rear-view mirror.
"How we understand the past may change, but the facts should not. We must embrace our history fully and build our future. We can memorialize President's Byrd's legacy and affirm the values that the University stands for todayâwithout having the stadium bear his name."