UIC Drops John Marshall Name

by Delaney Halvey & IIPSJ Staff

Beginning on July 1st, 2021, The John Marshall Law School will no longer exist as it has for 122 years. The board of trustees voted in late May to rename the school University of Illinois Chicago School of Law, after a months-long review process spurred on by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020.

The school’s original namesake, John Marshall, was not always widely viewed as a controversial historical figure. The 19th century jurist is referenced in the naming of more than a dozen other schools in the US, and has long been esteemed for his role in forming the American judicial system in his 34 year tenure as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. However, Marshall also owned slaves for most of his life and rendered a number of judicial decisions in the favor of slave owners, a reality recognized by several petitions circulating online regarding this and other “John Marshall” institutions.¹

UIC Chancellor Michael Amiridis said of the change that a “thorough and carefully studied process [was followed] that included input from all corners of the institution and beyond, considered issues of racial injustice and aimed to ensure that our university continues to be a place where diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity are supported and advanced.” The change leaves only two law schools bearing Marshall’s name: Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and the Cleveland Marshall College of Law. As reported by the National Jurist, “a spokesperson for Atlanta’s John Marshall said of the move: ‘Our Board of Directors is aware of UIC John Marshall’s decision and has no further comment at this time.’ Cleveland Marshall has also declined to comment. Earlier, it announced it was forming a law school name committee to look into the appropriateness of the name.”²

Expressive works of historical tribute and affiliation can implicate complex issues of IP Social Justice. Questions can arise as to the messages they intend to communicate, including the actions they intend to honor, and the attendant effect upon the mandate of equitable access, inclusion, and empowerment inherent to the social function of the IP system. These issues can be as multifaceted as the lives of the historical figures involved, and there is no one size fits all solution. Instead, resolution of these issues begins with the individual or institutional will to engage in difficult conversations toward forging, or re-forging, the national identity. The social breadth and significance of IP protection is germane to these conversations, and every stakeholder in the IP ecosystem has an interest in their conclusions. We encourage you to join IIPSJ in participating in and helping to shape this national discourse.

[1] https:/https://www.acslaw.org/expertforum/no-law-school-should-be-named-for-john-marshall/ 

[2] https://www.nationaljurist.com/national-jurist-magazine/uic-drops-john-marshall-name-citing-slave-owning-past