This message is being sent on behalf of Meredith College Board Chair Yvette Brown, ’90, and President Jo Allen, ’80.
Dear Meredith Community,
In the summer of 2020, Meredith reaffirmed its commitment to addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across all departments and administrative processes through the launch of a Campuswide Anti-Racism Initiative.
Since then, our main DEI focus continues to be making Meredith a more welcoming place for current and future students and employees. Recent examples are the appointment of the College’s first full-time DEI coordinator, additional DEI training for faculty and staff, and reviews and changes to processes and traditions to make them more equitable and inclusive.
Additionally, understanding the realities of our history and links to systemic racism is an important component of our action plan. As part of the process to understand and account for our history, the Meredith College Board of Trustees engaged with historians, researchers, diversity consultants, and representative faculty, staff, and alumnae to begin a thorough and thoughtful review of building names on campus in the fall of 2020.
Today, we formally acknowledge that one of our buildings, Joyner Hall, is named for an individual who advocated for white supremacy and unequal funding for schools based on race. The racist ideas James Yadkin Joyner, who served as a trustee for 55 years, stood for throughout his lifetime, are antithetical to Meredith College’s mission, vision, and values.
As a result of these findings, the Board of Trustees voted as part of its regularly scheduled March 2022 meeting to rename Joyner Hall. The building will be referred to as Lux Hall (meaning “light” and part of the College’s motto) until the trustees endorse a new name in the months ahead. As a first step, the portrait of Joyner that hangs in Lux Hall has been removed to remote storage. The Joyner name will be removed in the coming months.
Importantly, changing a building name at Meredith is a multi-layered consideration, but the primary consideration is not simply whether the namesake was racist, an advocate for white supremacy, or a proponent of Jim Crow laws—those pronouncements, while accurate, take us through a maze of complexities that require us to measure degrees of egregiousness, often leading to “all or none” conclusions. Instead, our considerations led to investigations and determinations of ongoing impact. In short, if the ultimate outcome of a person’s life in the context of the College is positive (e.g., advocating for the founding of the college, helping raise funds and build the college, offering leadership that sustained the College and ultimately opened doors to all qualified women), the name would not be changed. Importantly, the trustees are not talking about changing the name of the College.
In the case of J.Y. Joyner, however, the ongoing impact of his role as an enthusiastic advocate for white supremacy and differential funding for black versus white schools carries generational and lasting harm to BIPOC students whose schools and teachers lacked adequate facilities, salaries, resources, and basic accommodations. We know from educational research the impact is real and lasting. Therefore, part of our work is to recognize and account for that damage by ensuring our students and employees have equitable support and treatment from every aspect of the College.
In addition to the renaming of Joyner Hall, the Board endorsed the installation of signage with QR code links on each campus building to provide historical context about all of the individuals for whom the buildings are currently named.
Uncovering and confronting our history is an ongoing process that requires rigor, respect, compassion, and a firm commitment to ensuring Meredith is an institution where all can thrive. The Board will continue its work and provide further updates, when available, as part of Meredith’s Anti-Racism initiative.
We know some may disagree with the Board’s decision, but the ongoing harm done by Joyner’s initiative makes it untenable to continue to honor him–especially as an educator. We understand the topics and decisions covered in this announcement may evoke strong emotions and reactions and encourage you to use your Meredith support systems as you process this information. These support systems include the Counseling Center and the dean of students, DEI, Chaplain, and HR offices.
Finally, this announcement is likely to raise a number of questions. To help address some of your questions, we have created an initial set of FAQs and will add to or update them as appropriate.
As alumnae of the College, we know our education and relationships at the College have helped us all build the strength to face our history with courage, understanding that decisions such as this one do not change that history but, instead, demonstrate the commitment to doing better. Thank you for your ongoing support of Meredith College and for your role in making Meredith a welcoming place for all.
Yvette Brown, ’90, Chair, Meredith College Board of Trustees
Jo Allen, ’80, Meredith College President