Stockton University Considering ‘Location-based’ Name Change
GALLOWAY — A committee at Stockton University is polling the campus about changing the name of the school because of Richard Stockton's past as a slave owner and allegations he was a traitor to his country.
The 30-member Stockton University “50 Years and Beyond” Task Force was created in 2020 by the school's Board of Trustees and began meeting in 2021 to consider whether or not a " location-based name of the University, consistent with our founders’ original intentions should be pursued.”
The creation of the committee was part of a resolution passed by the Faculty Senate titled “Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice at Stockton." It came a few years after the school temporarily removed Stockton's bust from the Richard E. Bjork Library after concern about his being a slave owner.
The school sent out a digital poll Monday on behalf of the task force asking about a potential name change and said that Richard Stockton, whom the school is named after, was not only a slave owner but also signed a loyalty oath to the King of England in 1776 after signing the Declaration of Independence. The committee said that was "considered an act of treason by many."
The poll asks if Richard Stockton, given his past, deserves to have a university named after him and the impact of a name change on the school. It also asked for location-based name suggestions. The deadline to complete the survey is April 15.
Was Richard Stockton a trailer to the United States?
According to History.com Stockton was taken hostage by the British and jailed. After several months of "harsh treatment and meager rations," he repudiated his signature and swore allegiance to King George III.
Upon his return to New Jersey, he took a new oath of loyalty to New Jersey in Dec. 1777.
If the task force recommends a name change the next step is not clear.
"The Stockton University '50 Years and Beyond' Task Force was established independently by the Faculty Senate. The Board of Trustees receives recommendations on many topics and reviews each one of them based on their merit," the school said in a statement.
According to his biography, Stockton was born in Princeton in 1730 and was a member of the first graduating class at Princeton College (now University). He was a member of the Continental Congress, an unsuccessful candidate for governor and was elected Chief Justice of the New Jersey state Supreme Court. He declined to serve and chose to practice law instead.
As for his bust, it has returned to the library.
"In 2017, the university launched the Stockton Exhibition Project, which explores the history of Stockton University’s naming as well as Richard Stockton. This exhibit is displayed in the entrance to the Bjork Library," the university said in a statement.