WKU task force seeking input on controversial college namesakes

Editor’s note: this article has been updated for clarity.

WKU is currently seeking input from students and the community in order to address the history of slave ownership among two college namesakes.

President Timothy Caboni formed the Presidential Task Force on Naming and Symbols in the fall of 2020. 

The task force’s goal is to “explore options for how we might address those that might be problematic.” Specifically, the namesakes of the Potter College of Arts and Letters and the Ogden College of Science and Engineering. 

Two descendants of Potter, Gill Potter and Douglass Wood Potter, are in favor of the name change.

“While we are proud that our ancestor donated money for the founding of [Potter College] we think it is time to find a new name,” they told the Daily News.

Both namesakes, Robert Ogden and Pleasant J. Potter, helped build these institutions from wealth acquired through agricultural slave labor. These colleges began as private institutions before being adopted by WKU, according to Bowling Green Daily News.

“The entities that are currently named identify those that might be problematic in the history of the persons names who are on those,” Director of Media Relations Bob Skipper said. “We want to make sure that they uphold the ideas of the university, which includes diversity, equity and inclusion.” 

It is the goal of the task force to audit such names, prepare a set of guidelines and provide the administration with the appropriate recommendations.

You can submit your recommendations here and read more about the process they are undertaking.

“I do know [the task force] have been quite busy looking at documents, history, options, etc., and are now collecting feedback from all constituencies,” Skipper said in an email. “Once they are finished, they will submit recommendations to the president.”

Reporter Michael Crimmins can be reached at [email protected].