Petitioning University of Bristol

Rename Wills Memorial Building, Bristol

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Every student who first attends Bristol cannot help but notice the grand prominence of Wills Memorial Building at the top of Park Street. However, little know the history behind the name - enter Henry Overton Wills III. As honoured within the building itself, H.O. Wills is known best for being the first chancellor of the university; less people are aware that this position was granted to him after financing the university with slave-profited money. While we begrudgingly understand that Bristol has a historical connection to the slave trade, we find it hard to accept that the university still glorifies an individual who profited so greatly from such an immoral practice. We also find it ironic that the building is often the setting for events hosting some of this century's most progressive thinkers. 

As students of Bristol, we ask the university to uphold its commitment to diversity and inclusivity and revise the name of the building that is, somewhat, a centerpiece in the uni. The Wills family may have invested heavily in the institution, but this does not justify the means of slavery. As an establishment that wishes its community to be effective in 'challenging accepted norms'*, let us break free from Bristol's homogeneous toleration of slave profiteers and name the building after somebody the entire university population can be proud of.

Asher Websdale, Elmi Hassan & Shakeel Taylor-Camara

* http://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/sites/university/documents/governance/policies/university-strategy.pdf#page=9

 

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