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Renewed Push To For Rutgers To Change Names Of Buildings That Honor Slave Owners

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - Founded in 1766, Rutgers is the eighth oldest university in the nation.

Now there's a renewed push to confront its colonial past.

An online petition is calling on Rutgers University leaders to change the names of buildings that honor slave owners.

It has nearly 4,000 signatures, including Ezenezie Eze, Black student union vice president.

"How can you be placing students in an environment knowing that the place it's named after, the people would not want them to learn in that environment," Eze said.

As part of Rutgers 250th anniversary celebration in 2016, students pushed for the creation of Scarlet and Black, an ongoing project that uncovers the university's painful past.

"We found one enslaved man who we could at least connect with with one line in a ledger that was part of laying the foundation for the first building on campus," said professor Marisa Fuentes.

Fuentes is Scarlet and Black director of research that details how Rutgers was named after a slave owner, which is renewing calls for the university to change its name.

Gov. Phil Murphy would not directly address the issue.

"We ought to be able to get to a better place If there are symbols, statues, names that somehow separate us as a society, somehow offend people," Murphy said.

But it's more than just a name - it's the pain it represents that has boiled over across the country.

"I want you to know that I will not shy away from the uncomfortable conversations that must emerge if we deal with these issues honestly," said Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway.

Many are hopeful Holloway, Rutgers' first Black president, will find a meaningful solution. But he needs time - he just arrived on campus Wednesday.

In response to the Scarlet and Black research, the university dedicated landmarks to notable Black luminaries. This includes abolitionist Sojourner Truth, whose parents were enslaved by a college trustee.

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