St. Thomas to explore renaming buildings after discovery that namesake of Loras Hall was slave owner

The University of St. Thomas is forming a committee to research renaming practices for university buildings, spaces and programs after “concerning information” came to light recently regarding the namesake of Loras Hall, Bishop Mathias Loras.

In a statement to the campus community, University President Julie Sullivan disclosed that while examining Bishop Loras’ personal records for a project, researchers from Loras College in Iowa—also named for the bishop—had discovered that he was a slave owner.  
Sullivan called the news “disturbing.” Loras Hall on St. Thomas’s St. Paul campus, originally built as one of three residence halls for the St. Paul Seminary, was named for Bishop Loras, who died in 1858. 

“A core conviction of the University of St. Thomas is to see and respect the dignity of every human being; the sin of slavery directly contradicts that conviction, and Bishop Loras’ participation in slavery is reprehensible,” Sullivan said in her statement. 

However, Sullivan said that the university will not immediately erase Loras’ name from the building, saying that the St. Thomas community “must use this moment to enlighten ourselves.” 

“We do not seek to address our history by removing it; rather, we seek to interrogate and acknowledge our history as part of our decision-making process,” she said. “We will use our history to inform our next steps, to understand the context and to invite dialogue on how best to move forward in acknowledging our past while being very clear about our current convictions and values.” 

Sullivan announced the university will establish a committee to develop principles on renaming. She said the committee will first conduct research to determine best practices for situations like this and then develop principles that will “guide the university to respond when presented with recommendations to rename structures, spaces, programs etc.” 

The committee will include students, faculty, staff, alumni and trustees.

Sullivan said after the committee develops renaming principles, the university will establish a process for putting those principles into use and convene a group to make a recommendation for Loras Hall.