What is the best way to handle some of the dark aspects of the history of a university? Think forcibly removing indigenous peoples, slavery, Civil War, Jim Crow, Civil Rights movement and how higher education might have exploited and excluded populations while it was established and grew in the U.S.
What do we do about athletic mascots derived from indigenous culture? One way universities deal with the issue is to rename or remove all symbols, monuments, logos etc. which might be disrespectful to certain communities. A quick search led me to this Wikipedia article which lists all the colleges which removed all logos and mascots referencing indigenous peoples. Officially retiring logos or mascots does not mean the university community will embrace the change, especially if those traditions have been followed for decades. A solution to this problem is to develop new traditions. For example, there has been a recent push at the University of Illinois to develop new traditions centered around the sporting culture, but also recognize the divisive past and honor people who might have been affected by it. 
What about the universities relationship to slavery, its aftermath and the effects of divisive policies, apparent to this day? With a rise in white supremacist propaganda on college campuses across the country,  universities can no longer ignore the past. Virginia Tech has also witnessed white supremacist propaganda in the last few years and has a dark past. Smithfield Plantation; enough said.
A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reviews how universities, especially some of the oldest Ivy League institutions, ignored the history for a long time. A reckoning with the past came 15 years ago after Brown University established a committee to research the university’s history and how that related to slavery. In 2013, Ebony and Ivy by Craig Wilder exposed the role of slavery in establishing American higher education. Since then, universities across the U.S. have attempted to reconcile with the past in multiple ways. Some of these include renaming buildings, establishing monuments memorializing the history, and involving the members from communities most impacted by the exclusionary history to participate in making amends.
While I understand the rationale behind renaming buildings and tearing down monuments with ties to the racist past to appease the community, I also believe the history should be recorded in an appropriate manner for the community to see. No, a plaque at the corner of a street, or an obscure website buried within menus do not suffice. University communities should know about the past, no matter how painful the reconciliation might be. That’s the only way to ensure history is not forgotten and repeated.
This notion of preserving history no matter how painful is what I grappled with while visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. in 2016. I kept asking myself what we were memorializing by designing the museum to look like a concentration camp, which certainly brings back terrible memories for the survivors. The museum succeeded in its mission of making sure the Holocaust is never forgotten, at least in my mind, by displaying the details of all the terrible atrocities committed during the Nazi regime during WW2.
The Lemon Project at William & Mary is an excellent example of a way university can tackle the past while reaching out and making amends with the community. “The project is named for Lemon, a man who was once enslaved by William & Mary.” In addition to funding research and scholarship which investigates the history of William & Mary, the project also organizes a symposium each year to commemorate and celebrate the work being done to reconcile with the past.