Announcing the Committee on Public Art and History: Representing Equity, Diversity, and Racial Justice on the Grounds of Rutgers-Camden

Sent Friday, Aug. 14, 2020

Dear Rutgers University–Camden Students, Faculty, and Staff:

The long-overdue racial reckoning that the United States is currently facing has taken multiple forms, among them challenges to the memorialization of a range of historical figures and events. In recent months, our nation has begun to re-evaluate, through contemporary and social-justice lenses, statues, monuments, and other forms of public art – created to memorialize individuals or to represent a moment in history – that have been erected throughout the country since the 19th century.

We are called to this moment in our history to engage in such a reevaluation at Rutgers University–Camden. I would like to share with you that the Committee on Public Art and History: Representing Equity, Diversity, and Racial Justice on the Grounds of Rutgers–Camden has been created in response to that important call.

The committee will be active for the 2020-21 academic year, and we anticipate that its recommendations will have an important impact on our campus in meaningful ways for years to come. The Committee on Public Art and History will have two tasks. The first connects to a set of issues, related to the campus, that have arisen over the summer. In recent weeks, there have been calls for us to obscure the mosaic frieze on the front of the Johnson Park building (the former Carnegie Library, built in the early 20th century) and to remove the statue of Walt Whitman in front of the Campus Center. There also have been countervailing petitions and other communications opposing the obscuring of the frieze and removal of the statue. The second task addresses a broader question: How can Rutgers–Camden create, in our physical environment, a representation of our past that honors our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

We all know that history cannot, and should not, be erased. In order for us to learn from history and challenge the present, that past must be acknowledged and understood. Guided by this principle, the committee will be tasked with the following two matters: First, the committee will recommend a campus response to the petition to remove the Walt Whitman statue and the demand to cover the mosaic on the Johnson Park building. Second, it will recommend ways by which Rutgers–Camden can address the past in ways that embody – through the use of historical markers, public art, or other forms of representation – our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our built environment.

I am pleased to report that the following members of our campus community have agreed to serve on this committee and help us address these important issues:

Co-Chairs
Dr. Nyeema Watson, associate chancellor for civic engagement
Dr. Keith Green, associate professor of English and director of Africana studies

Members
Dr. Kendra Boyd, assistant professor of history
Prof. Kimberly Camp, part-time lecturer of art history
Dr. Stephen Danley, associate professor of public policy
Dr. Wayne Glasker, professor emeritus of history
Prof. Stacy Hawkins, professor of law
Dr. Tyler Hoffman, professor of English
Ms. Nancy Maguire, associate director for exhibitions, Center for the Arts
Dr. Charlene Mires, professor of history and director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities
Dr. Jason Rivera, vice chancellor for student academic success
Prof. Patrick Rosal, professor of English
Ms. Noreen Scott Garrity, associate director for education, Center for the Arts
Dr. Carol Singley, professor of English
Dr. Carla Yanni, professor of art history (Rutgers University–New Brunswick)

Two undergraduate students and two graduate students also will be part of the committee and will be announced shortly.

The committee will begin its work at the start of the fall semester. It will engage with many members of our campus, university, and city communities, as well as with our neighbors and other interested parties.

Please join me in thanking the members of this committee for embracing this work and helping Rutgers University–Camden to envision and articulate how we wish to honor both the diversity and the history of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and state.

Margaret Marsh, Ph.D.
Interim Chancellor

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