Campus

College Rebranding Student IDs After ‘Freedom Cards’ Deemed Dehumanizing

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Robert Morris University, a private school outside Pittsburgh, is changing the name of its student, faculty, and staff ID cards after a petition circulated calling the name "Freedom Cards" dehumanizing.

The IDs will be renamed "RMU ID" to address the concerns of some students. The administration had planned on a rebranding for some time, Jonathan Potts, the school’s vice president of public relations and marketing, told the Washington Free Beacon. RMU has not yet formally announced the change.

The name change comes as protesters across the country, outraged over police brutality and the death of George Floyd, have called for the removal of statues, imagery, and brands with racially insensitive connotations. Last week, the University of Virginia announced it would change its athletic logo after some claimed a detail on the logo had ties to slavery. Uncle Ben's rice and Aunt Jemima pancake mix and syrup will be rebranded after critics said the logos are racist.

Rising RMU senior Melanie Hall published a Change.org petition on June 11 that said using the term "freedom" on the cards made minority students feel "dehumanized."

"Gifting us with IDs that grant us our ‘freedom' is of extremely poor taste," the petition said. "Especially coming from a university that is named after a slave owner."

The petition received 130 signatures, just over 3 percent of the school's 4,000 enrolled undergraduate students.

"We ask that these changes be made so that minority students can also feel that same pride in being a Colonial," Hall wrote.

In 1935, the Pittsburgh School of Accountancy changed its name to the Robert Morris School of Business, named for a signer of the Declaration of Independence. RMU's Freedom Card and "Colonial" nickname echo the American founding.

Draven Marino, a rising junior at RMU, tweeted that the school needed to rebrand entirely. He said the Colonial mascot is "tasteless," adding a photo defining colonialism as "the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers and exploiting it economically." 

Asked about the Colonial, which has also come under fire for alleged links to racism, Hall told the Free Beacon she thinks the mascot is also problematic.

"I believe that the mascot is controversial," Hall said. "I don't take much offense to it but I can see why people would want it to be changed."

John Michalenko, dean of students, told Hall on a June 16 Zoom call that her petition could not have come at a better time. Michalenko said the school had "for years" planned on redesigning the ID cards.

In addition to changing the name of the identification cards, university president Chris Howard announced on Tuesday he would begin an Anti-Racism Task Force to promote racial equality on campus.