Special Edition: President Casey and Administration Wipe Away Cutten Namesake, Leaving Behind Tattered Past

Zoe Frishberg

On April 11, President Brian Casey notified students and staff via email that the residential complex located at 113 Broad Street will no longer be known as “Cutten Hall.” This change was decided by the Board of Trustees at their April 8 meeting and was supported by the faculty, the University Planning Committee and the Student Government Association.

The residential complex was built in 1966 and named to honor President George Barton Cutten, President of Colgate from 1922 to 1941. Cutten believed in the separation of the races and took action at the university to limit diversity. 

“He fundamentally altered the university’s admissions policies in order to essentially block the admissions of African Americans and to severely limit the admissions of Jews to Colgate for the time of his presidency,” Casey said. He reiterated that Cutten’s views were not accepted by many of his time. 

“He was espousing beliefs that were anomalous and recognized as harmful even in his own time,” Casey said. “These views were clearly not of his time, and his values went against the values of many [of] his time and of ours presently.”

Cutten’s name removal is the result of a long-held goal of the faculty and students at Colgate. The process to remove his name from the name of the building started in 2004, when a meeting was first held to discuss Cutten’s contentious legacy and its relation to the school.

In 2010, a second faculty meeting was held during which the faculty discussed a possible name removal. The issue became one of the board’s primary focuses after those responsible for the bicentennial book began research on the Cutten chapters.

“When I was arriving to the campus I received multiple reports from two different faculty groups that had looked at the Cutten legacy,” Casey said. After receiving these reports, Casey brought the issue to the Board of Trustees in September, who believed this issue should be reviewed.

By January, the board agreed that the name should be changed and that they would decide the future of Cutten at the next and final board meeting in April. The board decided to remove the Cutten name altogether, and call the complex by the four individual house names: Brigham, Read, Shepardson and Whitnall Houses. The building as a whole will be known as 113 Broad Street. The board discussed renaming the building in honor of someone more deserving, but decided against that change. 

“The future of Cutten as a residential complex is uncertain, and if we named it after someone and then took the building down that would not be great,” Casey explained.

 He also explained that the decision not to rename the building was supported by the building’s “pure geographical luck” because its street address includes

Colgate’s lucky number “13.” 

“It turns out by sheer luck of the draw the street address was 113 Broad Street, so that just seemed too tempting,” Casey said.

As Colgate starts its next chapter by removing the “Cutten” name from the building, Casey urges us to remember Colgate’s history, especially in light of the approaching bicentennial. 

“For many people on campus [that name] was a difficult marker on campus,” he explained. The removal of the name will remove some negative sentiments on campus regarding the building. 

“[Merely] taking someone’s name off doesn’t mean the history goes away, though,” Casey discussed. By removing the name, Colgate is taking away Cutten’s honor, but not taking away his history.

“The historian in me insists that the university remembers its history,” emphasized Casey. While the name change does not erase Cutten’s history at this school, Casey does positively view the change. He called the change “a moment of deep and sustained reflection” on the school’s troubled past.