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UK faculty group asks for Rupp Arena to be renamed

The University of Kentucky African-American and Africana Studies faculty also asked that buildings named after enslavers or Confederate sympathizers be renamed.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — In a letter to the University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto, the school's African-American and Africana Studies faculty said Rupp Arena should be renamed.

The arena, named after former Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp, has served as the home court for the Kentucky men's basketball team since 1976, as well as hosted the Kentucky high school Sweet Sixteen and NCAA Tournament games.

"The Adolph Rupp name has come to stand for racism and exclusion in UK athletics and alienates Black students, fans, and attendees," the faculty said. "The rebuilding of the arena and the convention center offer an opportunity to change the name to a far more inclusive one, such as Wildcat Arena."

When WHAS11 reached out to the university about the arena's name June 30, spokesperson Jay Blanton said the school would be gathering feedback about "issues that should be addressed."

"We are now building out our implementation process for a campus-wide, comprehensive plan that has as its goal fostering a greater sense of diversity, equity, and inclusion," Blanton said.

The faculty also outlined other steps that they believe would have an immediate impact on racial equity, including removing the names of any campus buildings named after enslavers, white supremacists, or Confederate sympathizers.

"We recognize that the University has already announced a set of steps to enhance diversity," AAAS faculty said. "We propose another series of actions that focus on deeper, structural change. These actions will alter the institutional realities concerning racism on our campus and move us toward racial equity—not just diversity and inclusion—in our community."

Included in their recommendations are committing to increasing diversity and Black representation among staff at all levels as well as allocating funds for a Black Studies Initiative for all staff to educate employees on racial injustice.

AAAS faculty said the university faculty's Black representation should be at 15%, a reflection of Lexington's Black population. It is currently at 3.7%.

"UK must do better in all Colleges and in all fields to recruit, retain, tenure, and promote Black faculty," the faculty said. "Funding at the college and departmental level should be awarded based on academic units’ success or failure in these areas."

They also recommend more support for Black students like increasing scholarship aid and establishing a system of accountability for people who commit racist or other discriminatory acts on campus.

"Too many verbal and physical attacks on Black students, faculty, and staff occur without consequences for perpetrators," faculty said.

The faculty also recommended the school minimize its cooperation with law enforcement agencies including Immigration Customs and Enforcement and the Lexington Police Department. Additionally, they said the University of Kentucky Police Department should produce reports that include data on police interactions by race.

The AAAS program have founded the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies, a place for research on race, racism and Black diaspora. Faculty also asked that the university fund the institute as well as join the Universities Studying Slavery collective.

In response to the letter, Blanton said senior officials have been meeting with faculty to address concerns. He said new faculty hires have been approved and discussions are ongoing regarding the creation of the Commonwealth Institute of Black Studies.

"But more must be done. And that is what our process – which hundreds of members of our campus have stepped forward to be part of – is designed to address," Blanton said in a statement. "The work ahead of us is bigger than a plan written down on paper. Rather, we must respond as an institution, now and from this point forward, to be a community that stands against racism and that embraces people as their authentic selves."

The letter to UK's president can be read in its entirety here.

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