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Cleveland State Trustees Vote Unanimously to Strip John Marshall’s Name From the College of Law

Cleveland State University’s law school will now bear the name Cleveland State University College of Law.

The name change was approved unanimously Thursday by CSU’s board of trustees to eliminate references to legendary U.S. Chief Justice John Marshall from the Cleveland State University Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, in light of his history as a slaveholder.

The decision takes effect immediately. The words Cleveland-Marshall will be removed from the law school building, letterhead, and online site.


The appropriateness of having John Marshall’s name on the school came under debate when the school received a petition in 2020 seeking its removal.

That prompted an exhaustive review, involving scores of people, said trustee Timothy Cosgrove, who chairs the board’s Academic Affairs and Student Success Committee. That committee on Wednesday recommended the name change to the board of trustees.

“This process was never about John Marshall’s contributions to jurisprudence and whether or not that was part of the curriculum at the law school,” Cosgrove said. “It was simply a question about does the Marshall name belong on the law school. Does it represent the values of our university and our college of law? That was the question.”


“In a majority-minority city, the Marshall name does not represent the community of Cleveland,” the committee wrote in its final report. “The petition from the community and from our students to drop the name Marshall from the law school is in keeping with continuing work to acknowledge the evil of slavery, the diversity and inclusion goals outlined [by the university] and the university’s commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and Inclusion for all members of our community.”


The report from the naming committee offered some options suggested by prominent alumni. Those were:

  • Substituting Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s name.
  • Honoring former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes or his brother Carl, former mayor of Cleveland and first Black mayor of a major U.S. city.
  • Honoring Ann Aldrich, a former federal district judge who also taught at Cleveland State for several years.
  • Simply calling the school the Cleveland State University College of Law.