Bard Hall was opened in 1931, Bollinger said. It was named for Samuel Bard, an 18th Century physician who served as George Washington’s doctor and founded what is now the university’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“We know about at least one instance, in 1776, in which (Bard) advertised, with a promised reward, for the return of a fugitive slave,” Bollinger wrote.
The university convened a group in June to “consider campus names and symbols associated with matters of race and racism,” the letter said. That committee unanimously recommended renaming the dorm. The group will continue its work into the academic year, the letter said.
In his letter, Bollinger emphasized “how careful we need to be in shaping the environment, symbolic as well as physical, in which we ask our students to live and to call home.”
The change “feels urgent not only for the individuals who have been asked to call Bard Hall home, but for the many students, staff, and faculty in the broader Columbia community,” Bollinger said, in part.
He added it is “especially vivid at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, where the contradiction between the egalitarian health service norms they cherish and slavery’s denial of full human standing is starkly blatant and offensive.”
“Of course, we cannot, indeed should not, erase Samuel Bard’s contributions to the medical school,” Bollinger said. “But we must not recall this history without also recognizing the reason for our decision to rename Bard Hall.”