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May 18, 2016

Virginia Board Lets Scalia Law School Renaming Stand

Virginia’s higher-education oversight body decided Tuesday that it does not have authority to weigh in on George Mason University’s plan to rename its law school for Antonin Scalia, as stipulated by a $20 million donor, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. In a unanimous vote that reflected guidance from Virginia’s attorney general, the State Council of Higher Education approved a resolution stating that the rechristening lies outside its purview because it does affect the public college’s mission.

The university Board of Visitors’ approval of honoring the late Supreme Court justice now stands as the final word on the contentious change, which was announced in late March in connection with the anonymous $20 million gift and a $10 million contribution from the Charles Koch Foundation. The donations will fund scholarships to the law school, which has run up deficits amid flagging enrollment.

Tuesday’s vote was preceded by an hour of public comments that reflected the six-week public debate over the matter, with current faculty and students at what is now the Antonin Scalia Law School backing the change and other campus groups claiming the university is trading academic integrity for a donor-backed, conservative and libertarian agenda.