FAQs: The Arboretum at Gustavus Adolphus College

On October 12, 2021, Board of Trustees Chair Scott Anderson announced that the College would remove "Linnaeus" from the name of the arboretum.
Posted on October 12th, 2021 by

Since the Gustavus Adolphus College Board of Trustees announced the creation of the Linnaeus Deliberation Circle in December 2020, the College community has undergone an inclusive, thorough, and intentional examination of how Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus’ legacy intersects with the College’s mission and core values of community and justice. The process of exploration, reflection, and deliberation consisted of robust conversations, collaboration with outside experts including Swedish historians on Linnaeus and the co-founder of the Arboretum, and careful consideration of how various groups may be impacted by the name. This work culminated in a Board of Trustees vote on October 1 whereby the College’s governing body agreed to remove the Linnaeus name.

Read the official announcement here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was the process for making this decision?

In 2018, a group of Gustavus students approached College leaders about re-examining the name of the arboretum in light of concerns about Carl Linnaeus’ writings on human taxonomy. Students, faculty, and staff again approached the College in the summer of 2020, at which time President Rebecca Bergman brought the issue to the Gustavus Adolphus College Board of Trustees.

By governance authority, it is the Board’s responsibility to consider and approve all campus naming and renaming decisions. After considering possible approaches throughout the summer and fall of 2020, the Board of Trustees announced the creation of the Linnaeus Deliberation Circle, a working group consisting of Gustavus trustees, faculty, staff, and students, in December 2020. Co-chaired by Chaplain Siri Erickson and Trustee Ron White ‘75, the Linnaeus Deliberation Circle was created in the spirit of shared governance and to ensure that representative voices were heard. The Circle was charged with preparing educational materials for the Board of Trustees, exploring decision scenarios, and providing the Board with an intellectually and ethically robust analysis of the impacts of these possible scenarios.

The co-chairs selected Kathy Lund Dean as the process facilitator for the Circle. The group used a stakeholder analysis model in which the Circle identified stakeholder impacts, gathered historical information, invited input from Linnaeus experts, surveyed how scholars and institutions were discussing the impact of Linnaeus’ legacy and writings in the United States and around the world, and identified additional questions to research.

The Circle provided regular updates to the Gustavus community and prepared reports for the Board of Trustees throughout the spring of 2021. Following the conclusion of the Circle’s work in May 2021, the Board created a Task Force of Trustees to consider the scenarios and prepare a recommendation for the Board of Trustees to discuss at its September 2021 meeting.

At the September 2021 meeting, the Board of Trustees passed a resolution removing the Linnaeus name from the arboretum and officially renaming the space “The Arboretum at Gustavus Adolphus College.”

What will happen to the bust of Carl Linnaeus?

The bust of Carl Linnaeus that has been displayed outside the arboretum’s Melva Lind Interpretive Center since 1988 will temporarily be moved into storage. Officially titled Linnaeus (Head of Carl von Linné), the sculpture was created by Gustavus alumnus and artist-in-residence Paul Granlund (1925-2003). This fall, a task force will be named to consider options for a new location for the bust.

How does this decision relate to the College’s broader commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion?

The Gustavus Adolphus College mission calls for the College “to be a community of persons from diverse backgrounds who respect and affirm the dignity of all people.” To that end, the Gustavus Acts Strategic Plan (2015-2025)  includes among its three primary goals the aim to “diversify and expand the Gustavus community.” To do that, Gustavus seeks to be a community with broad racial, ethnic, geographical, social, and economic diversity, one that encompasses a variety of identities and affinities. As an institution, we are committed to providing a campus climate that truly values difference.

Renaming the arboretum helps all to feel welcome on campus and to take full advantage of the educational opportunities that the arboretum provides. Gustavus aspires to be a welcoming and inclusive institution for all students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the broader local and global community.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication Luc Hatlestad


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