78% of Newcastle students vote to keep the Armstrong Building’s name
Only 18% were in favour of a renaming
Over three-quarters of those who voted in the NUSU poll on renaming the Armstrong Building have elected to retain the name, as published on Students’ Union website.
Of the 2,380 students who participated in the vote, an overwhelming majority of 78% supported retaining the current name while providing further information on Lord Armstrong, 18% preferred a full renaming and abstentions represented the remaining 4%.
Concerns had been raised about the homage to Armstrong after his links to the slave-owning Confederate States of America came to light following the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol.
William Armstrong from Newcastle Upon Tyne was a famous British industrialist and inventor. His family is amongst the wealthiest in Northern England. However, they also profited existentially from selling munitions to the Confederacy in the American Civil War #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/1Ar0Yvr5kv
— Tom Fowdy (@Tom_Fowdy) June 9, 2020
Following the vote, which was indicative rather than binding in nature, NUSU will now officially present to the Univerisity the position that more information on Armstrong’s background should be provided to students while retaining the name of the building.
Having delivered the results to the Vice-Chancellor’s office, the Union received the following response: “Please thank all students who took part in this process for engaging. This outcome will be fed into the work and considerations of a working group – the name tbc.”
During the American Civil War Armstrong sold arms to both the Unionist and Confederate sides, meaning that he profited non-discriminatorily from emancipators and slaveholders alike. The removal of Colston’s statue, as well as the prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement, has led to an increased awareness of Britain’s colonial past, with effigies to many morally ambiguous figures being targeted by protestors.
Upon the announcement of the vote, the NUSU President and Welfare and Equality Officer stated:
“As a University that prides itself on social justice- helping to educate and fight against global issues and injustices like racism and war- and being student-led in many forms of its action, part of this process calls to action a re-evaluation of what we deem to be the correct form of remembrance, and for the student voice to be recognised here.”