OU: University Names More Than Just Donors

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The naming of university buildings has come into focus since controversy related to an Ohio University Foundation administrator brought protests in front of building named for him.

But university officials say the naming of university of entities involves more than just donated money.

After racially-charged comments made by OU Foundation trustee Steven Schoonover came to light in early July, protesters asked that his name be wiped from the Schoonover Center for Communication. Schoonover has contributed millions of dollars to the university, including $7.5 million that was utilized in the construction of the building, according to media reports.

While the OU Student Union made their statement against Schoonover in the form of a public protest, a group of 16 Communications faculty released a letter asking for a more detailed apology from Schoonover and for the university to recognize the need for more diplomacy in university decisions.

Schoonover has since apologized for the comments, which were uncovered in a public records request to local media outlets. Emails regarding the purchase of the house currently being used by OU President Roderick McDavis on Coventry Lane included statements from Schoonover saying university officials should “play the race card” with critics of the housing decision.

But the university hasn’t made any move to change the name of the building.

The university has not given comment on the push to remove the Schoonover name, but a spokesperson for the university said the protocol for university-bestowed names, such as the recently finished residence halls on South Green, doesn’t necessarily have to do with the amount of money given.

“The naming of residence halls don’t traditionally have a gift component,” university spokesperson Bethany Venable wrote in an emailed statement to WOUB. “Because they traditionally are named after (OU) contributors, a committee of faculty, staff, students and alumni is charged with suggesting names to the president and ultimately the Board of Trustees”

According to documents from the OU Division of Student Affairs the committee involved in the naming of the most recent residence halls was given parameters under which to choose names. Names brought before the committee had to have a connection to Ohio University and it was suggested that names be of individuals who were no longer living. The proposals were then presented to the Board of Trustees for approval.

But changes can be made to the given names, as was seen recently with the Barbara Geralds Institute for Storytelling and Social Impact. Geralds was formerly Barbara Geralds Schoonover, and requested the change to her “preferred name.”

That change requires Board of Trustees approval as well.

“We try to honor such requests and are moving forward through the proper channels to make the change official,” Venable told WOUB in an email.