Local PHCC board has ‘no choice’ on new name

By Brandon Martin

The Patrick Henry Community College Board has laid the groundwork to find a new name for the college following the State Board of Community College’s rejection of the local board’s decision to either keep the name the same or to rename it as Patrick-Henry Community College.

Interested participants can expect an anonymous survey to be released in the coming days which will have two fields that will allow the community to suggest a name and to provide a reason for why that new name should be chosen.

Dr. Angeline Godwin, president of PHCC, said that the new names should “capture the mission and vision” of the college and comply with the new policy by the state board regarding the name.

Additionally, Godwin said, “there is no appetite from anyone for a new name to be a name of a person.”

Godwin also suggested that any new names coincide with popular branding associations already in place with the college. These would include the compass logo, the colloquial shorthand of “PH,” and the theme of “patriots.”

Godwin noted that the state board has not proposed any funding for the name change, which would impact current merchandise, signs and advertisements.

“We’ve got no funding stream for this,” she said. “So, we need to go back and look at the financial analysis on a name change again.”

As part of the financial analysis, Godwin asked that it be broken down into one section that includes the previously mentioned branding associations and another that does not consider those factors.

Godwin encouraged the board to continue bringing up the subject of funding to the state board.

“I think we need to continue to have those conversations,” she said. “I wouldn’t just stop talking about it. I’m not going to quit talking about you getting some money for this. I do think we should keep asking the state board to look for resources.”

The final list submitted to the state board will consist of 3-5 names, Godwin said.

Regardless of the names submitted, Godwin noted that the state board has the sole authority on the naming of community colleges in Virginia.

“Our only goal at this point is to influence the state board’s decision on what a new name might be,” she said.

When summarizing the background, Godwin noted three circles — the circle of concern, the circle of influence and the circle of control.

She said the state board is in the circle of control and she left the decision to the local board as to if it wanted to be part of the circle of influence by suggesting names or to be part of the circle of concern where the board would let the state board make the decision without local input.

“The question before this board is do you want to participate in the renaming of this college, yes or no,” Godwin said.

The local board chose yes to the question on a motion made by board member John McGraw, with board members Wren Williams and Robert Haley voting against the motion.

After submitting a resolution passed by the Patrick County Board of Supervisors to not change the name of the college, Williams said, “We know that this name has sort of been attributed to Patrick Henry at this point, who was an American hero and one of the founders of this great nation. I like the name Patrick Henry Community College and I’ve always enjoyed that name, especially with the ties to the communities Patrick and Henry counties.”

Williams said he is saddened that “we are seeing individuals try and create this division that is just not felt in the region.”

Overall, Williams said he objects to “participating in what I think is a very patronizing exercise, and I feel like we should stand against this cancel culture and make the decision that no, we are not going to participate in what you are asking us to do.”

Board member Gary Collins said he also did not like the position the board had been put in by the state board.

“I still totally support our first decision. That is what we named it, and it’s in the minutes,” Collins said. “I totally disagree with the state of Virginia. I agree with Mr. Williams on some points, but if we don’t change it, then we have no choice, and they are going to stick us with a name that we may not want at all.

“I’m in favor of doing it, not because I like it, but I think we need to because who knows what they are going to stick us with when we would at least have the right to a choice that we could recommend. They may take it and they may not but at least we could make a recommendation,” Collins said. “The community has got to know that we have no choice in this.”

The board will solicit names until June 14. It then will make a final decision on a slate of recommended names and submit the list to the state board on June 21.

Acceptable names will be ranked by preference of the local board and each individual name must receive a majority vote to be included.

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