GALLOWAY, N.J. — A new Stockton University volunteer committee will meet for the first time on Wednesday to begin the development of an exhibit, and eventually a curriculum, to "thoughtfully and objectively" explore the life and legacy of the school's namesake, the university announced Monday.
The formation of the committee under the direction of Stockton president Harvey Kesselman follows the removal last week from the school's main entrance of a bust of Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who also was a documented slaveholder.
The removal came amid protests nationwide over the statues of controversial historical figures, including the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., where white nationalists marching to save a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee clashed with counter-protesters. The confrontation left a young woman and two state troopers dead.
But when the bust of Stockton was taken down last week — temporarily, according to the university — Kesselman said the debate whether to remove it had been going on for several years.
In the statement released Monday, he said that the removal was relevant to what was happening with historical monuments across the United States and that "it has created the opportunity to engage in a discussion of the man, his role in American history, and how we might better remember him today."
The first task of the committee will be to recommend an "appropriate, safe and secure" public space where a temporary exhibit will be erected explaining how and why the university is undertaking a research initiative into Richard Stockton's life and legacy. A permanent exhibit, complemented by educational activities such as panel discussions, lectures, and a course about Stockton, will eventually follow, Kesselman said.
The committee will be comprised of administrators, faculty, instructors, and students.