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New York's Columbia University will remove Samuel Bard's name from dorms because he owned slaves

Columbia University is taking the name of its medical school’s founder off of a campus dormitory because he owned slaves and once advertised a reward for the return of one who ran away. 

The Bard Hall building located on Haven Avenue in New York, which is home to clinical students studying at Irving Medical Center, was named after Samuel Bard when it opened in 1931. 

Columbia President Lee Bollinger told students and faculty in a letter on Friday that it be rechristened ‘with a name that represents our University’s values.’   

Bollinger said a panel assembled in June to study campus names and symbols associated with race and racism unanimously recommended that Bard Hall be renamed. 

Columbia University in New York is removing Samuel Bard's name from a campus dormitory (Bard Hall is pictured) because he owned slaves

Columbia University in New York is removing Samuel Bard’s name from a campus dormitory (Bard Hall is pictured) because he owned slaves

Samuel Bard, who lived from 1742 to 1821, was a pioneer in obstetrics, helped develop a treatment for diphtheria

Samuel Bard, who lived from 1742 to 1821, was a pioneer in obstetrics, helped develop a treatment for diphtheria

Bard, who lived from 1742 to 1821, was a pioneer in obstetrics, helped develop a treatment for diphtheria and served as the personal physician to President George Washington. 

In 1767, he founded what is now known as Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. 

In 1776, he placed an advertisement in the New York Gazette offering a $10 reward for the return of a tall, thin and talkative enslaved man named James who was believed to have fled toward the East End of Long Island.

Bard owned three people as slaves, according to the 1790 census. 

A Columbia project says he owned eight slaves in the 19th Century. 

Bollinger had asked asked Interim Provost Ira Katznelson to lead discussions about racial symbols.

He said that the university was not erasing Samuel Bard’s contributions to the school ‘but we must not recall this history without also recognizing the reason for our decision to rename Bard Hall.’

President Lee Bollinger wrote in an August 28 letter to students that Columbia University is taking the name of its medical school's founder off of a campus dormitory because 'the contradiction between the egalitarian health service norms they cherish and slavery's denial of full human standing is starkly blatant and offensive'

President Lee Bollinger wrote in an August 28 letter to students that Columbia University is taking the name of its medical school’s founder off of a campus dormitory because ‘the contradiction between the egalitarian health service norms they cherish and slavery’s denial of full human standing is starkly blatant and offensive’ 

In 1776 doctor Samuel Bard advertised a reward for the return of a slave who ran away

In 1776 doctor Samuel Bard advertised a reward for the return of a slave who ran away

The building is home to clinical students studying at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (pictured) which was opened in 1931

The building is home to clinical students studying at Columbia University Irving Medical Center (pictured) which was opened in 1931

‘We all understand 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,’ Bollinger wrote in the letter announcing the change.

Excising Bard’s name from the dormitory felt ‘especially vivid’ at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, he wrote, ‘where the contradiction between the egalitarian health service norms they cherish and slavery’s denial of full human standing is starkly blatant and offensive.’ 

Dr. Raymond Givens, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Columbia, told CNN that he has wanted the name changed for some years. 

‘On the one hand it was a point of pride to be able to give my son that type of headstart in life,’ Givens, who is Black, said. ‘But knowing that I was dropping him off every day in a building named for somebody who would have seen him as property was kind of a heavy feeling.’ 

Last month, Columbia’s Teachers College announced it was removing psychologist Edward Thorndike’s name from a campus building because he was a proponent of eugenics and expressed racist, sexist, and antisemitic views. 

Bard’s grandson, John Bard, founded Bard College north of New York City. 

Last month, Columbia's Teachers College announced it was removing psychologist Edward Thorndike's name from a campus building because he was a proponent of eugenics and expressed racist, sexist, and antisemitic views

Last month, Columbia’s Teachers College announced it was removing psychologist Edward Thorndike’s name from a campus building because he was a proponent of eugenics and expressed racist, sexist, and antisemitic views

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