The University of Michigan will be changing the names of the C.C. Little Science Building and Winchell House of West Quadrangle after a vote by the Board of Regents, following a recommendation from President Mark Schlissel.
According to The University Record, two separate formal requests to review the names were presented to Schlissel; a student for Winchell and four U of M faculty members and a student for Little.
Schlissel later presented both requests to the President’s Advisory Committee on University History for consideration. In addition to the formal request, there were two public forums and an online petition of about 1,400 signatures.
"Our review principles include that those who wish to change the formally designated names of spaces or buildings carry a heavy burden to justify removal of a name," Schlissel said. "I believe that burden has been met for these two instances."
The advisory committee is led by Terrence J. McDonald, Thurnau Professor of History and director of the Bentley Historical Library. The committee recommended to the president that both the Winchell and Little names be removed.
When reflecting on the committee's efforts, "Our committee's work has been animated by two connected beliefs, first and foremost, that we are wedded to our past with all that is uplifting and troubling within it, and second, that a better understanding of our past can be a very good reason for changing the way we commemorate a person in our history," McDonald said.
Clarence Cook (C.C.) Little was a geneticist who served as university president from 1925 to 1929 (the briefest term in the history of the university). Little also served as president of the American Eugenics Society from 1928-1929, and was on the Advisory Council and Board of Directors until 1935. While university president, he called for immigration restriction, sterilization of the “unfit,” and anti-miscegenation laws.
In addition to eugenics, Little was also the scientific director of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Tobacco Industry Research Committee. Although scientific evidence later proved to the contrary, he refused to believe that environmental factors could cause cancer, maintaining it was a genetic disease.
The East Medical Building was named after Little in 1968 by University Regents, as the board decided to rename buildings honoring past presidents. The decision considered an “afterthought” by University planner Fred W. Mayer.
Alexander Winchell was a U of M professor of physics, civil engineering, geology, and paleontology. Winchell’s most notable work, the 1880 book “Preadamites, or a Demonstration of the Existence of Men before Adam,” was “unambiguously racist and out of step with the University’s own aspirations in those times,” according to the committee report.
The C.C. Little Science Building will be referred to by the building’s street address until the building is renamed under the university’s facility naming policy. The vice president of student life will be spearheading the process for renaming the Winchell House.