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University of Maryland to consider renaming athletic stadium

(Reuters) - The University of Maryland will consider renaming its athletic stadium, which honors a former college leader and supporter of racial segregation, the school said on Monday, the latest U.S. campus to tackle concerns of racism in names, titles and mascots.

In a letter to students and staff, University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh said he had recommended to the Board of Regents that the name of “Byrd Stadium” be changed to “Maryland Stadium.”

“To many African-American alumni and students, “Byrd Stadium” — the “front porch” of the institution, not the most important part of the educational house, but the most visible one — conveys a racial message hidden in plain sight,” Loh said.

The facility on the College Park campus, about 8 miles (13 km) from Washington, is named after former university president H.C. “Curley” Byrd, who led the school from 1936 to 1954 and was key in the university’s rapid growth during that time.

Byrd was also an ardent proponent of segregation and “separate but equal” education, both as school president and later in his campaign for governor of Maryland, Loh said.

“Values of racial segregation and discrimination are associated with his iconic name and legacy,” he added.

A working group considering the name change said supporters note Byrd’s role in the university’s expansion and say his racial views were typical of the time.

The University of Maryland, which has an undergraduate enrollment of about 27,000 students, is the latest U.S. campus to take up discussions about racism and the experience of minority students on campus.

Princeton University has pledged to consider renaming buildings dedicated to former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, who supported segregation.

Schools in recent years have also changed mascots and athletic team nicknames showing insensitivity to Native American tribes.

The University of North Dakota last month changed its nickname to “Fighting Hawks” after the National Collegiate Athletic Association deemed “Fighting Sioux” “hostile and abusive.

Last month, protests and solidarity marches swept across dozens of college campuses, including the University of Missouri and Yale University, over complaints that officials had not taken seriously racial incidents on campus.

Editing by Clarence Fernandez