Women’s college changes library’s name over ‘racist and anti-Semitic’ history

Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., Wednesday, May 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Matt Rourke/AP

Women’s college changes library’s name over ‘racist and anti-Semitic’ history

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Bryn Mawr College, a women’s college in Pennsylvania, will now refer to its library as “Old Library” or “Great Hall” after removing the original name due to its racist and anti-Semitic history.

“Old Library” opened its doors in 1907, and in 1935, it was renamed in honor of the school’s first dean and second president, M. Carey Thomas.

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Thomas served Bryn Mawr until her retirement in 1922, and she is regarded as a leading advocate for women’s rights and world peace, according to a statement released by the school.

“However, naming this building after Thomas also functioned as an act of historical erasure,” the statement read. “It silenced and erased the experiences of those who had been affected negatively by the racist and anti-Semitic policies that Thomas promulgated as College president and her active, public embrace of eugenics.”

The views espoused by Thomas impacted policies that shaped the values and structures of Bryn Mawr in a matter that “harmed students, faculty, and staff,” according to the school.

“Her actions impacted prospective students of color and Jewish students who were excluded from the College as well as students of color and Jewish students who were later admitted to the College and experienced the legacy of her decisions,” the stated. “At odds with the values of inclusion to which the College currently aspires, her actions created harm for the entire campus community.”

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Following the actions during the Charlottesville rally in 2017, Bryn Mawr President Kimberly Cassidy announced a moratorium regarding the library’s name, and a working group was formed.

“Bryn Mawr now seeks to provide the College community with opportunities for engagement, reflection, and healing and to contribute to efforts to address systemic issues of racial bias on campus,” according to the school’s statement. “The acknowledgment of acts of erasure and Thomas’s history are key steps in a larger process of articulating and embracing a fuller sense of the College’s past.”

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