Following up on my previous posts (links below): Lee Fisher (Dean, Cleveland State), Law School Name Change: Cleveland State University (CSU) College of Law:
Below is a message from Cleveland State University President Laura Bloomberg announcing that earlier today, the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees voted to remove the name “Cleveland-Marshall” from the College of Law. Our college will now be known as the CSU College of Law.
As President Bloomberg notes, the Board reached its decision following an extensive and comprehensive process that included review by a special University ad hoc committee of the Law School Name Committee Report that I submitted to the University earlier this year. The University ad hoc committee unanimously recommended the removal of the name “Marshall,” and in September President Bloomberg submitted that recommendation to the Board with her endorsement. I also voiced my support of the recommendation.
The Law School Name Committee, which I appointed in the summer of 2020, consisted of law students, alumni, faculty, and staff members. The Committee was charged with seeking wide input and developing findings and options for whether “Marshall” should be removed from the Law College’s name. The careful, thoughtful, deliberate process of the Law School Name Committee modeled what we teach our law students, including the importance of due diligence, due process, inclusiveness, transparency, and the need to listen to, respect, and understand the viewpoints of others.
The Law School Name Committee met over 18 months, and sought wide and deep input from all Law College constituencies. The Name Committee created a Law School Name Website and comprehensive resource materials on institutional name change issues: the Law School Name Resource Guide. The process included six virtual public forums which included nationally prominent speakers from universities which have dealt with similar naming issues, a 45-page Law School Name Framing Document that presented different views on the Law College name issue, and an online survey sent to over 4,000 Law College alumni, students, faculty, and staff as well as CSU and Cleveland legal community members.
I support the CSU Board's decision. We cannot ignore the reality that Chief Justice John Marshall bought and sold hundreds of slaves throughout his adult life, and unlike many of his contemporaries like George Washington, did not free any of his slaves; nor can we ignore his troubling beliefs, statements, and actions relating to slavery. His actions and views are contrary to the shared values of our Law College and the University — an unwavering commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.
My view is that changing our Law College name is not about erasing history; it is about understanding the inherent complexity of our history and reckoning with that history in the context of our present-day values. Chief Justice John Marshall’s contributions to American jurisprudence are significant and enduring, and his writings, decisions, and judicial legacy will continue to be an important part of our curriculum and the education of all CSU College of Law students, but we need to recognize the distinction between history and bestowing honor. Naming rights are a highly cherished honor that should be reserved for those whose actions are consistent with the shared present day values of the Law College and University and those with the strongest ties to our Law College — either through their service or their philanthropy. The fact is neither Chief Justice Marshall nor his ancestors have any ties to Cleveland, CSU, or our Law College.
I respect that some of you will disagree with the CSU Board’s decision and my views, but I hope that those on all sides of this issue will respect the careful process that both the Law College and the University undertook. I am very appreciative that the vast majority of our alumni, students, staff, and faculty with whom I have communicated have agreed with this inclusive and deliberative approach regardless of their views on the issue.
As President Bloomberg states in her below message, I hope we can all move forward in agreement that the true value and strength of our College of Law lies in the high quality of the education we offer and the talents and diversity of our students, faculty, staff and alumni. That will never change.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage: