I make my recommendation to the board with full recognition of the danger in attempting to erase history or the suggestion that the removal of a name on a building can rectify past actions that have damaged the progress and promise of individuals affected by such deeds or actions. I believe that my recommendation is not ahistorical. It is based on my judgment of the historical context of Dr. Paul Loser’s actions, decisions and comments. In fact, President Roscoe West’s membership on the Committee on Unity positioned the College prominently as an advocate for desegregation in Trenton, arguing in partnership with others (including of course the Trenton NAACP and the Hedgepeth and Williams families) against policies, philosophies and customs accepted by the Board and the Superintendent that were at odds with desegregation. I believe that the College is now more obligated than ever to remember the past in a more informed way and to seek actionable and sustainable ways to support social justice and educational attainment in both Trenton and Ewing.
This is a painful decision for me because I have such respect for other members of the Loser family. Pete Loser was instrumental in the creation of the TCNJ Foundation and the late Tom Loser and his wife Carol Kuser Loser exemplify generosity of spirit and graciousness All have been extraordinary citizens of New Jersey and great friends to the College. I also want to make clear that this decision has no impact whatsoever on the 2006 endowment and naming of the Carol Kuser Loser Dean of Nursing, Health and Exercise Science because of a $5 million gift annuity.
I want to thank the members of the Advisory Commission on Social Justice for their thoughtful and compelling recommendation (May 15, 2017) which was instrumental in my consideration of this complex matter. In addition, material collected by students in Dr. Robert McGreevey’s Fall 2016 class (Kevin Moncayo, Chris Loos and Justine Thomas) , including depositions and transcripts of the 1943 Supreme Court case and other archival documentation, two 2011 papers authored by previous McGreevey students (Lauren Wells and Trevor McLaughlin) on this topic and the 1959 Rutgers Ed.D thesis of Roland Howard Daniels (“Case Study of Desegregation in Public Schools of Trenton, New Jersey”) have also informed my recommendation. In the face of this evidence, common sense dictates that Paul Loser’s actions and comments were contradictory to New Jersey law. His failure to expedite the desegregation of the Trenton schools, after the unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court decision, conflicts with many facts of the version of the history of school desegregation in Trenton that many of us had been told when we moved to central New Jersey. Undoubtedly, there was positive movement in desegregation in the years following 1946, and Trenton did not suffer the disruption experienced in other American cities, but there is little doubt that without the leadership and persistence of the local NAACP chapter, the Trenton Committee on Unity, and the Hedgepeth and Williams families, it is unconvincing that changes would have come to a system that continued to implement segregation by race and color. In addition, the documents provide evidence that there was a systemic failure to hire a racially diverse faculty in the Trenton School system in the years following the Court’s decision.
In the face of these observations and conclusions, I recommend the removal of Dr. Paul Loser’s name from the building currently housing Nursing, Health and Exercise Science and the Admissions Office and replacing the name with Trenton Hall.
The name “Trenton Hall” will embrace the College’s history, under its 6 different names, as an institution born in the city of Trenton, and reaffirm our responsibility as a steward of place, both of Trenton and of Ewing. We will not lose the Loser family name, nor the memory of what that family has done for the College, but we also cannot forget what Dr. Loser’s legacy meant for people in Trenton and their descendants. At the same time, we should not forget that during his tenure as superintendent of schools, he received accolades and support from many in leadership throughout New Jersey. This history is not the failure simply of one man.
I am deeply saddened that this recommendation and the publicity associated with it hurts members of the Loser family who were not involved in Dr. Loser’s professional decisions made in his capacity as Superintendent of Schools, but I am convinced that this recommendation is the appropriate action for the Board of Trustees of The College of New Jersey to take.