Columbia University to Remove the Name of a Slave Owner From a Campus Building

In 1931, a residence hall at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center was named for Samuel Bard, the founder of what is now Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. Today, Bard Hall is a dormitory for clinical students at the medical school. Dr. Bard was a significant physician in the 18th century, a pioneer in obstetrics and treating diphtheria, who served as George Washington’s doctor.

Dr. Bard also owned at least three slaves. In 1776 he published an advertisement that promised a reward for the return of a fugitive slave.

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger recently announced that the name of the building would be changed. The name change is “urgent not only for the individuals who have been asked to call Bard Hall home, but for the many students, staff, and faculty in the broader Columbia community, and especially vivid at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, where the contradiction between the egalitarian health service norms they cherish and slavery’s denial of full human standing is starkly blatant and offensive,” Dr. Bollinger wrote in a letter to the university community.

President Bollinger said a new name for the building will be selected later this fall.

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