The Gustavus Adolphus College Board of Trustees has made the decision to remove the name “Linnaeus” from its campus arboretum, Board Chair Scott Anderson ’89 announced today. Effective immediately, the 125-acre greenspace located on the southwest corner of the St. Peter campus will be renamed “The Arboretum at Gustavus Adolphus College.”
The decision comes after a deliberative process in which members of the college community explored how the institution should recognize the legacy of Carl Linnaeus, the 18th-century Swedish botanist who is best known for popularizing the modern binomial nomenclature system of naming living things. In recent years, Linnaeus’ writings on human taxonomy have come under scrutiny as an example of scientific racism based on his classification and description of human varieties in his seminal work, Systema Naturae.
“I’d like to publicly thank the students, faculty, and staff who encouraged the College to reexamine the name of the arboretum and the broad cross-section of our community who engaged in intentional, deliberate, and thorough reflection over the last several months,” Anderson said. “The Board of Trustees has made the decision to remove Linnaeus’ name from the arboretum. Moving forward, Gustavus will embrace the educational opportunity to tell a more complete history of Carl Linnaeus, examining not only his contributions to science but also the problematic elements of his work.”
Founded by Swedish-Lutheran immigrants in 1862, Gustavus Adolphus College’s mission statement calls for the college to be a community of persons from diverse backgrounds who respect and affirm the dignity of all people.
“Gustavus has historically sought to build an inclusive and just community. In recent years, and especially since George Floyd’s murder, we have strengthened our efforts to pay attention to underrepresented voices and discovered how painful Linnaeus’ name and legacy are for some of our students and visitors. Changing the name of the arboretum is an important step in welcoming all to the Gustavus campus and in becoming a community of thoughtful discernment committed to working for a more just world,” Anderson said.
Recognized as one of the top college arboretums in the country, the space was founded in 1973 and named the “Linnaeus Arboretum” in 1988. The mission of the arboretum is to connect people with nature and the environment through education, exploration, and inspiration. Today, the arboretum, which is open to the public without fee, includes over a dozen formal gardens and restored natural areas that represent Minnesota’s biomes including a tall-grass prairie, wetlands, coniferous forests, and deciduous woods.