Committee Recommends CSU Remove "Marshall" from its Law School Name

New report aligns with previous recommendations, student demands, city council resolution, national momentum

click to enlarge Committee Recommends CSU Remove "Marshall" from its Law School Name
Cleveland State University

At a Cleveland State University board of trustees meeting Thursday, an ad hoc committee composed of students, faculty and alumni convened by President Laura Bloomberg recommended that the law school change its name to no longer memorialize John Marshall, a former Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and an "unrepentant slave owner." 

The committee said that John Marshall does not well represent a majority-minority city like Cleveland and was inconsistent with the university's values.  Marshall's slaveholding, and his unwillingness to free his slaves as others in his era did so, was the main reason for the committee's decision. 

"The change of name may seem symbolic to some, but to the African American community and society at large, it would be a compelling assertion of the values of equality, diversity, and inclusiveness at Cleveland State University," a report from the committee read.

The recommendation is consistent with the findings of another committee that considered the law school's name, overseen by Law School Dean Lee Fisher himself. That committee delivered its findings to the university board in February.

After surveys and meetings with stakeholders, the committee found that a majority of students, faculty, staff and the naming committee members believed that the law school should change its name.

Thursday's recommendation also aligns with the urging of Cleveland City Council and the demands of student groups, who pleaded with University officials to get rid of the Marshall name, even if a new name or new naming policies had not yet been established.

A group of law school students calling themselves Students Against Marshall sent a letter to Fisher and the naming committee in January asking that the name be removed immediately.

"Our single objective," read the letter, "is for the CSU Board of Trustees to remove the name of this slave master who built his wealth through ownership of human beings, from all aspects of the law college prior to the Spring 2022 Commencement, ensuring no other C|M|Law student graduates with the name of a brutal slave owner on their diploma."

Dean Fisher confirmed Thursday that he, personally, believed that the name of the law school should be changed.

With new report in hand, the board will now consider the recommendations and will likely vote on removing the name at its November meeting. If it votes to remove the name, a more comprehensive process for selecting a new name will begin. 

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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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