Georgetown University is no longer considering renaming the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) after the late Madeleine Albright, according to an internal email SFS Dean Joel Hellman sent to SFS faculty, staff and student representatives Oct. 10.
The proposal to rename the SFS to the “Madeleine K. Albright School of Foreign Service” was first leaked in June by faculty, resulting in public debate and several student and faculty petitions. Many students and faculty members pointed to some of the foreign policy decisions of Albright, who was ambassador to the UN and secretary of state in the Clinton administration and a professor at Georgetown, as well as the desire to continue honoring Fr. Edmund A. Walsh, founder of the SFS.
Dean Hellman said the SFS must first focus on defining its place in the global political, social and policy environment of the 21st century before a name change takes place.
“My conviction remains that we need to have these deep discussions,” Hellman told The Hoya. “We need to kind of chart and think through the mission and vision of the school, and that’s what we ought to be focusing on. It’s premature to be focusing on the renaming until you have any kind of discussion about that.”
Dean Hellman said the idea for a name change stemmed from a desire to honor Albright’s legacy in international affairs and her role as a professor at Georgetown.
“We should recognize that for 40 years during her time at SFS, she was a prominent part of the identity of the school,” Hellman said. “Her contributions beyond policies that she took as secretary of state, she left a broader legacy on the world of global service by breaking down these barriers to entry into global influence, and to the lifetime and career paths of service, for women, for LGBTQ and for other marginalized groups.”
“In thinking about honoring her in the future, a lot of it is honoring the fact that she opened doors, that she broke barriers, that those struggles still continue. In addition to recognizing the extraordinary role that she played as the face of the school in the past, there is much to honor in what she represented for the future,” Hellman added.
Albright was the first woman to serve as secretary of state and championed the involvement of women in international affairs, though she has drawn criticism for her foreign policy decisions in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia and South Eastern Europe.
SFS Academic Council President Adrian Ali-Caccamo (SFS ’24) and Georgetown University Senate Association President Camber Vincent (SFS ’24) first learned of the name change deliberations in June. They said student reactions were varied, which they communicated to Dean Hellman.
“There’s a lot of opinions that students have on both sides, both supporting and opposed to this, but there’s a lot of strong opinions,” Ali-Caccamo told The Hoya. “The other big part was for us to communicate back student interests, student concerns, what people were thinking about.”
Ali-Caccamo and Vincent said that Dean Hellman informed them in June that deliberations would take place over the coming months and that the decision would not be quickly made.
“I had a conversation with him so he could gather my perspective, what I’d been hearing from other students,” Vincent told The Hoya. “He made it clear that the timeline for the name discussion wasn’t going to speed up anytime soon, and I relayed that information over to the senate.”
Vice Speaker of the GUSA Senate Megan Skinner (SFS ’24), GUSA Senator Meriam Ahmad (SFS ’26) and Renato Llontop Calosi (SFS ’24) met with Dean Hellman in September to discuss student concerns with the name change.
Llontop Calosi said that each group member brought a different perspective to their meeting for Dean Hellman to consider.
“One of them was mine, which is pro-Walsh, Meriam’s was anti-Albright, and then Megan was more into ‘It’s not the time to change the name of the school,’” Llontop Calosi told The Hoya. “Each of us spoke about the several reasons for Dean Hellman to consider why the school shouldn’t be renamed at this point.”
Llontop Calosi created a student petition against the name change in June that garnered over 700 signatures.
Students interviewed by The Hoya said that, dissenting and supporting viewpoints alike, Dean Hellman was receptive to student concerns and an active listener and participant during conversations.
“Dean Hellman has always been open-minded and willing to engage with students from my experience, and this wasn’t any different,” Ali-Caccamo said. “He reached out to us to schedule discussions, as he did with a lot of people around campus. To me, that showed genuine willingness to talk to us and to hear what we had to say.”
“Hellman was very open. He made it very clear when we talked into our meeting that he was still in the stage of collecting feedback from any student that wanted to meet with him, not just those in leadership roles or who had titles for one reason or another,” Vincent said. “He let me speak first, and then he laid out why the school under his leadership wanted to change the name, and then there was the dialogue.”
Marwa Daoudy, associate professor of international relations, co-authored a public letter in June to Dean Hellman by faculty members against a name change.
Daoudy said that while the proposal withdrawal was an unexpected development, Dean Hellman listening to community concerns — as well as the Georgetown community in airing grievances — gives her hope for SFS governance.
“The combined solidarity and collective effort deployed by many faculty, students and alumni within and beyond SFS carried real meaning,” Daoudy wrote to The Hoya. “It takes strong leadership to listen to dissenting voices and act upon it. Future proposals to rename our school will need to publicly engage from the onset all faculty and students in an open and transparent dialogue.”
Skinner said that the school should find other ways to honor Albright, such as starting a women in international affairs program, hosting an academic symposium or naming the Georgetown University Institute for the Study of Diplomacy after Albright.
“I presented three alternatives that I thought would do better to honor her memory in a way that would better educate students about her connection to the university,” Skinner told The Hoya. “When people see the name Madeleine Albright, they don’t immediately think of her as a professor. They think of her as secretary of state. Now that we have a lot of students on campus who never knew her as a professor, the important thing in honoring her legacy on campus is educating students.”
Dean Hellman said that the SFS will continue searching for another way to honor the legacy of Albright.
“We should commit ourselves to honoring that role in the most appropriate way that we can,” Hellman said.
Jack Willis contributed to reporting.
Correction: On 10/13, this article was updated to reflect that Llontop Calosi is in the SFS and not the College of Arts & Sciences. Additionally, the “Institute of Diplomacy” was changed from shorthand to the full “Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.”