Board of Trustees approves new WCU policy for naming of programs, facilities

The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees unanimously approved a new policy establishing criteria for naming university programs and facilities, including a more extensive background screening process of potential honorees or donors.

The action by the board came at its quarterly meeting Friday, March 6, and follows recent high-profile situations in which institutions decided to remove the names of individuals after past allegations or incidents came to light.

The newly created University Policy 11 calls for proposals for the naming of facilities and programs to be sent to WCU’s Office of the General Counsel for an appropriate background screening, which may include criminal history, social media checks, litigation history and community and media reviews.

In cases in which a potential naming involves a gift of at least $1 million or presents some other high-visibility situation, the general counsel can request a more extensive check to be conducted by an external vendor.

The university has the authority to name facilities or programs on the basis of financial donations and in recognition of significant service or contributions to the university, the state or society as a whole.

Policy changes approved by the board include setting a “one-year cooling off period” for former university employees or elected officials before university facilities or programs could be named in their honor, T.J. Eaves, WCU assistant general counsel, told the trustees.

The board also approved similar modifications to the university’s existing guidelines for selection of nominees for honorary doctorates, including background screening of potential recipients.