The University System of Maryland grants TU permission to name West Village 1,2 after its first Black graduates

By: Gabriel Donahue, Deputy News Editor

Towson University announced Friday that the two residence halls once named after former slave owners, West Village 1 and 2, will become Harris and Barnes Halls next fall to honor the first Black graduates of the university, Marvis E. Barnes and Myra A. Harris.

The announcement comes after the USM Board of Regents voted on Friday to approve President Kim Schatzel’s request to change the names. 

“I never dreamed something like this would happen,” Harris said in a press release. 

Barnes and Harris became TU’s first Black graduates in 1959, shortly after the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision in 1954, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools, the University said.

“I am truly honored to recognize their lifetime of achievement with such a fitting tribute to Ms. Barnes’ and Ms. Harris’ exceptional impact on the TU community,” President Kim Schatzel said in the press release.  

Echoing Schatzel, USM Chancellor Jay Perman called the women courageous.

“We owe Ms. Barnes and Ms. Harris a huge debt of gratitude—we all do—and naming these buildings for these women, indelibly a part of TU’s history, is a great way to start paying it off, ” Perman said.

West Village 1 will become Harris Hall and West Village 2, Barnes Hall, the University said. The buildings will have a formal dedication ceremony during the Fall 2022 semester.

The residence halls were originally named Carroll Hall and Paca House, after Maryland natives and slave owners William Paca and Charles Carroll. 

The University began to look into a formal name change in June 2020 after pressure from the TU community and a formal request from the Student Government Association, The Towerlight reported

USM granted TU permission to move forward with the renaming process in June 2021 after the 10-person Naming Committee concluded its review of the original names, The Baltimore Sun reported. The buildings were then stripped of their names and temporarily labeled West Village 1 and 2.

“I’m grateful for the dedication of the committee in reaching a unanimous recommendation to the Board of Regents, and I’m appreciative of our Regents for accepting that recommendation today,” Vice President of Student Affairs Vernon Hurte, who led the Naming Committee, said in the press release.

Correction: this article previously stated that West Village 2 was originally named after John Carroll. That is incorrect, it was Charles Carroll. The story has been updated to reflect the correct name.

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