|Vol. 13 No. 15
JULY 23, 2018
by Jonathan Gramling
by Jamala Rogers
by Heidi M. Pascual
Columns & Features
Changing Names and Spaces
Back in the early 1970s when I was an undergraduate at UW-Madison, one of my favorite past-times was watching
recent-release, avant-garde and independent films in the Frederic March Play Circle, usually on a Sunday night,
trying to extend the relaxed feeling of the weekend.
I didn’t know who Frederic March was even though March died in 1975, after I stopped going to the Play Circle
regularly. I just enjoyed going to the affordable and informative movies in the theater.
In April 2018, an ad hoc study group, headed up by Dr. Floyd Rose and Stephen Kantrowitz, released their findings
on a study of two university organizations from the 1910s and 1920s that took the name of Ku Klux Klan. In one
case, it was an inter-fraternity organization that apparently had no connection to the national Ku Klux Klan
movement. In fact, when the second group named itself Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and ascribed to the white
supremacist values of the national KKK movement, they changed their name to Tumas.
Now the study group recommended “a history project that identifies and gives voice to those who experienced and
challenged prejudice on campus; and a further commitment to current programs designed to increase diversity and
create a more equitable campus community.”
These things are all well and good and are great recommendations. But this seems to skirt a larger question about
the dearth of buildings, rooms, etc. named after people of color on this campus.
Now I do realize that the university, in recent years, has named two resident halls in the Lakeshore dorm area
DeJope and Vel Phillips, which are also wonderful things. I have gone to those buildings because I go to many
events and interview many people, but I am sure that most university students — not to speak of the public at-large
have ever visited.
The naming of campus buildings and rooms has evolved organically since the UW-Madison was founded in back in
1948. Bascom Hall is named after John Bascom, a former president of the university. Birge Hall is named after the
first dean of the College of Letters and Science. Vilas Hall is named after former Board of Regents member and U.
S. Senator Henry Vilas. More recent buildings are named after people who have contributed to the university. For
example, the Fluno Center was named after Jer Fluno, a 1963 graduate of UW-Madison and made possible through
a donation by Fluno and his wife Anne.
Now I know the flow of economic life that makes these things happen and it is wonderful that people donate to
UW-Madison and have helped prepare UW-Madison to continue to be a world-class university. Especially since
state government has turned its back on Wisconsin’s public education system, the university has depended on
private dollars to reach its goals.
But unfortunately, institutional and overt racism prevented people of color to contribute in a meaningful way to the
creation and growth of UW-Madison. -- READ MORE