Whitmer creates commission to study solutions to Michigan population loss

UM regents take ex-president’s name off building

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor – The University of Michigan Board of Regents voted unanimously Thursday to remove a former president’s name from an academic building because of the leader’s controversial views.

The Clarence Cook Little science building on the campus of the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, March 28, 2018.

The board approved renaming the Clarence Cook Little Science Building, which was given that name in 1968 as part of a concerted effort to recognize previous university presidents.

Little, who was UM president from 1925 to 1929, supported eugenics in the 1920s and, in the ’50s and ’60s, downplayed the connection between smoking and cancer, said supporters of a campaign to strip his name from the building.

Eugenics is the science of controlled breeding that increases the occurrence of certain heritable characteristics.

The regents also voted to rename the Alexander Winchell House, named in 1936, because of its namesake’s racist views. Winchell, a professor of geology in the 1800s, published pamphlets that argued intelligence was related to race, and that whites were superior to other races.

Freshman Tyler Washington, 18, said the renamings were a large step for the university.

“I think it’s a step forward in the right direction for the university to say they don’t support the views of their past leaders in hopes for a better community,” said Washington, from Southfield. “The university needs to hold people accountable for racial insensitivity and racist actions.”

Terry McDonald, history professor and member of the President’s Advisory Committee on University History, said during an investigation, members found Winchell’s 1880 book “Preadamites: or, A Demonstration of the Existence of Men Before Adam” has become a supporting text for white supremacists.

“When we started our work in the committee, it was not surprising they were the first names to be raised,” McDonald said. “We were surprised to learn his book had became a foundational text in white supremacy in America. We see no reason to commemorate him in a residency space.”

With Little, a UM advisory committee recommended his name be removed from the building after reviewing a petition by faculty and students calling for the action. UM President Mark Schlissel concurred and made the same recommendation to the regents.

Little, who was president of the American Eugenics Society, called for immigration restriction, anti-miscegenation laws and sterilization of the “unfit,” said McDonald.

“(Also) the 1950s campaign sowing doubt about the links between smoking and cancer negatively affected the lives of millions,” the committee wrote in its recommendation.

“Changing the name of a space does not change our history,” McDonald said.

Also Thursday, the board voted to rename the university’s cancer center the Rogel Cancer Center to honor a $150 million gift from Richard and Susan Rogel.

All told, the Rogels have contributed $188.5 million to 17 areas of the university, the board said.

“Their energy and commitment to our mission is truly inspirational,” Schlissel said. “To honor them, we vote to change the name to the Rogel Cancer Center and I thank them for their friendship and the support they provide for our students to succeed.”