George Washington University announced Wednesday that it will be dropping the “Colonials” nickname that has been used for close to a century. The university, after commissioning a panel to discuss the name and potential changes, announced that the moniker can no longer unify the George Washington community.
“For supporters, the term refers to those who lived in the American colonies, especially those who fought for independence and democracy,” the special committee found. “For opponents, Colonials means colonizers who stole land and resources from indigenous groups, killed or exiled Native peoples and introduced slavery into the colonies. These are perspectives that cannot be easily harmonized, the committee concluded. Use and popularity of the moniker also has declined in recent years.”
Board Cahir Grace Speights agreed with the name change in a statement.
“The board recognizes the significance of changing the university’s moniker, and we made this decision only after a thoughtful and deliberate process that followed the renaming framework and special committee recommendation that considered the varying perspectives of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and athletics community,”
“A moniker must unify our community, draw people together and serve as a source of pride. We look forward to the next steps in an inclusive process to identify a moniker that fulfills this aspiration.”
President Mark S. Wrighton also agreed and praised the “principled” approach the university took in dropping the name.
“As we embark on our third century, we must continue to lead with our values, strengths and the diversity of the George Washington University community,” Wrighton said. “I was impressed by the principled and collaborative approach of the special committee, and it was clear this process was driven by research and robust engagement with the community. While some may disagree with the outcome, this process has determined that changing the moniker is the right decision for our university.”
The Colonials moniker will be used by George Washington University throughout the year. A new nickname is expected to be introduced in the 2023-24 schoolyear after a “broad university community engagement process.”
George Washington University has used the “Colonials” nickname since 1926.