PHCC begins review process for name changes around campus

By Brandon Martin

The Patrick Henry Community College (PHCC) Board has begun the process of evaluating whether to change the school’s name following a mandate from the State Board of Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCC).

Along with the school’s name, the names of buildings, facilities and the school’s mascot will also be reviewed.

During PHCC’s July 20 board meeting, Janet Copenhaver, board chairman, said “The review process will include an historic review, a cultural review, a public feedback component, a philanthropic impact review, and a financial analysis. Our top priority is the success of our students and our community. Our goal is to conduct this review with a commitment to mutual respect, integrity, transparency, and professionalism.”

According to the VCC, the move comes after demonstrations across the country to highlight “symbols of systemic racism that have existed in plain sight for years. We feel a responsibility to join that broader conversation and focus a high level of scrutiny on the names that adorn our facilities,” the resolution read.

Each college’s local board will lead the review process and will be expected to provide a full report to the State Board by March 2021 for final review. Ultimately, any decisions for changing the name of an institution will be determined by the State Board.

There will be five teams at PHCC that will be handling the review process: the College Name Team, the Buildings Name Team, the Facilities Name Team, the Patriot Mascot Team and the Financial Analysis Team.

Each team will include: two college board members, a representative of PHCC’s Equity Alliance Response Team, faculty representatives, staff representatives, student representatives, the research librarian and support staff.

Copenhaver will lead the review committee for the college’s name. Vice-chairman Dr. Denny Casey, will lead the review committee for examining the building names. The immediate past board chair, Barry Helmstutler, will lead the Financial Analysis Review Team, which will assess the potential financial and philanthropic impact that could be incurred should a change be deemed necessary. Other teams will review the college’s mascot and any named facilities.

“We want to be a response, not a reaction,” said Brian Henderson, who heads up the Equity Alliance Response Team. After preliminary discussions with other members of his team, Henderson said “instead of putting finances and energy into changing a name,” that the team believes there are other avenues to positively make changes that promote “equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Henderson said that the college is also looking to start a book club where participants will read about relevant issues to “create a healthy dialogue” regarding equity and race issues.

The board will seek feedback from the community by surveying alumni, current and prospective students, area citizens and business leaders.

“We are aiming to provide the State Board with an accurate assessment of the appropriateness of every name that we have been asked to review,” Copenhaver said. “Ultimately, though, PHCC’s mission and purpose are to serve the local community. Therefore, we will rely heavily on the community’s perspective to inform our responses.”

Among the buildings that will be reviewed for a possible name change are: Francis West Hall, William Stone Hall, A. L. Philpott Hall, Walker Student/Fine Arts Center, J. Burness Frith Economic Development Building and the Thomas P. Dalton IDEA Center.

Once the review is submitted, the State Board will assess the information to determine whether a change will be necessary. Only the State Board has the authority to change a community college’s name. The college invites anyone who would like to share comments or feedback regarding this review process to email feedback@patrickhenry.edu.

In other matters presented to the board:

*Members of the New Reality Task Force gave brief updates on efforts the school is taking to allow for a safe reopening in the fall. There are six teams in total: the Safe Welcome Back Team, the 360 Degree Human Services Team, the PHCC Experience Team, the Equity Alliance Response Team, the Communications Team and the Student Engagement Team.

*New board members were introduced in what was the first full board meeting on a zoom call, according to PHCC President Dr. Angeline Godwin. The new members are Monica Hatchett, Wayne Moore, Robert Vogler, DelShana LeGrant and William O’Brien. “I want to say a hardy welcome to our new members,” Godwin said. “Service to this college is truly service to the entire community.”

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