Feb 21, 2022

Petition Launched to Rename Berkeley Library

Philosopher George Berkeley, after whom the library is named, was a slave owner.

Anna Marie RooneyContributing Writer
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

A petition calling for the Berkeley library to be renamed has accumulated over 280 signatures in four days.

The petition calls Trinity’s continued association with Bishop George Berkeley “a failure on the part of Trinity College Dublin to engage with [his] problematic legacy”.

It also argues that Trinity’s Colonial Legacies Project is “limited by being merely a research project”.


Sparked by debates about racism that arose from the Black Lives Matter movement, the project was launched last year by then-Provost Patrick Prendergast, and aims to investigate College’s intellectual and historical connections to imperialism.

Later that year, The University Times reported that Trinity had “no plan” at that time to rename the library.

The petition lists five potential replacement honorees, including Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese.

“An appropriate decolonisation of college would recognise that the Berkeley Library, the eponymous Gold Medals, and memorial window are no longer appropriate to the 21st century university that Trinity projects to the world”.

The library, named after Trinity alumni and philosopher Bishop George Berkeley, has been the subject of debate since as early as 2001, when a Yale research team documented Berkeley’s ties to colonialism.

Best known for his work in the field of immaterialism, Berkeley also has a college named after him at Yale University.

The research team found he went to the United States with the goal of establishing a school for native Americans whom he labelled “savage Americans”.

Owning slaves himself, Berkeley once wrote that “slaves would only become better slaves by being Christian”.

The petition says: “Trinity’s reputation and influence as an institution behoves them to set an example of how an inclusive and respectful learning environment can be established. This includes ensuring that the campus does not openly promote relics of oppression and institutional racism.”

The petition comes just two weeks after the Schrödinger lecture theatre was renamed following revelations of the quantum physicist’s paedophilic abuse.

In an email statement to The University Times at the time, Trinity Media Relations Officer Catherine O’Mahony said: “This is a complex situation and the School of Physics has approached it in a careful and considered manner.”
“The current approach continues to honour the indisputable scientific contribution of Erwin Schrödinger, while acknowledging disturbing information – much of it from Schrödinger’s own diaries – which is now also known.”

The theatre was originally named Physics Lecture Theatre but the name was changed in the 1990s to celebrate Schrödinger and his contributions to quantum theory.

The School of Physics executive recommended the change to the Provost last month.

Suggestions for a new name included the Walton theatre for Ernest Walton, who is known for splitting the atom. Another possibility is that it be renamed after a female physicist.

Sign Up to Our Weekly Newsletters

Get The University Times into your inbox twice a week.