(As prepared for delivery)
Today, I am requesting that the Board of Regents consider two very important items brought forward by members of the University of Michigan community.
Two separate requests ask us to reconsider the names of Alexander Winchell House in the West Quadrangle Residence Hall and the Clarence Cook Little Science Building at 1100 North University Avenue – under a process and set of principles enacted in 2017.
Our goal with this process is to ensure that a thorough scholarly examination is done when appropriate, and that the principles we use take into consideration the many factors that guide building naming at our university.
The process involves the existing President’s Advisory Committee on University History, which includes some of our top faculty members and historians. We will hear shortly from the committee’s chairman, Terry McDonald, director of our Bentley Historical Library.
The members of the committee did outstanding work in evaluating the requests, examining the many complex issues involved, and making the recommendations we are considering today. I accepted the committee’s recommendations, and I fully support their conclusions.
Under our review principles, those who wish to change formally designated names of spaces or buildings carry a heavy burden to justify removal of a name, and that this should be a rare event. I believe that burden has been met for these two instances.
My view regarding Winchell is that his work, even at the time of publication, was racist and antithetical to U-M’s values and aspirations. He wrote a book that continues to be used in support of white supremacy. His name does not merit, nor does it belong, on one of our houses in a University of Michigan residence hall.
Former U-M President C.C. Little used his academic credentials to promote eugenics and tobacco smoking during his career. While serving as university president, he campaigned for eugenic measures, including restrictions on immigration and the promotion of sterilization of those he deemed “unfit.”
He later worked on behalf of the tobacco industry to discredit science that demonstrated links between cigarette smoking and cancer. Little ignored scientific principles to the harm of millions of people, so I also support the request to remove his name from a building where we teach science.