Members of the UW-Madison campus community and the general public will have a chance this week to discuss whether two spaces at Memorial Union — Porter Butts Gallery and Fredric March Play Circle — should be renamed because of links between the men they are named for and a 1920s campus organization named the Ku Klux Klan.
Public forums on the issue will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Capitol View Room and 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday in Old Madison East. The forums are hosted by the Union Council, the governing body of the Wisconsin Union.
“We are actively seeking out feedback from our community on these names,” said Susan Dibbell, Wisconsin Union deputy director and member of the Union Council. “We want to hear what people are feeling, information they would like to share, and their thoughts.”
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank in August, following a deadly protest by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., appointed a group to study the history of campus groups named for or linked to the national Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a group whose bigotry against blacks, immigrants, Catholics and Jews helped it flourished at in the early 1920s. The group, which released its report in April, considered but did not recommend renaming the Memorial Union spaces. Members advised instead that the campus community focus on addressing “a pervasive culture of racial and religious bigotry.”
The university has committed to hiring more faculty of color and creating a public history project on the work of those who fought prejudice on campus.
The Union Council is considering whether to change the names of the spaces.
The forums this week come in the midst of summer break, when much of the campus community is away from Madison. But Memorial Union spokeswoman Shauna Breneman said members of the council wanted to continue work over the summer so as not to delay the decision-making process.
“These forums are just one of multiple ways Council is receiving feedback from students, more than 90,000 other Wisconsin Union members, and community members,” she said.