Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Kim Traynor

Edinburgh University renames David Hume Tower over ‘racist’ views

Edinburgh University has renamed its student study space as a result of an online petition discouraging the use of David Hume’s name which reached 1,700 signatures.

The space, which was known as David Hume Tower, was changed to 40 George Square in response to a petition that wanted to distance the university from Hume’s comments on race.

The university said that these comments “though not uncommon at the time, rightly cause distress today” as the online petition claimed that Hume “wrote racist epithets”.

This decision was part of a statement on the equality and diversity committee and it’s race equality and anti-racist sub-committee and the work they have been doing since the death of George Floyd.

A statement from the university said “it is important that campuses, curricula and communities reflect… the university’s contemporary and historical diversity” and that they are “considering many other issues beyond the naming of buildings”.

Some academics disagree with the move however, including some  employed by the university. They argued that Hume’s writings can cause great inspiration and insights into human nature that might incentivise students.

Nobody is demanding we erase David Hume from history. However, we should not be promoting a man who championed white supremacy

– Elizabeth Lund

Jonathan Hearn, professor of political and historical sociology at the university of Edinburgh, noted that Hume had racist views but his works on human nature “outweigh” these comments.

Elizabeth Lund, the creator of the online petition against Hume’s name being used, said: “Nobody is demanding we erase David Hume from history. However, we should not be promoting a man who championed white supremacy.”

The move to rename university buildings has been taken by many other universities as they make an effort to show their commitment to equality since the rise of protests in the Black Lives Matter movement. UCL have started reviewing buildings named after eugenicists Francis Galton and Karl Pearson, while the University of Bristol is reviewing buildings with links to slave traders such as Edward Colston.

City, University of London’s Business School removed the name of Sir John Cass, due to his link to the slave trade.

Warwick’s Students’ Union (SU) has also taken part in all this by campaigning to change the name of the Radcliffe Conference Centre.


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