Campus News

Task force missed December deadline to advise campus on past KKK affiliation

According to a 1924 Badger Yearbook, members of the organization titled the “Ku Klux Klan” included actor Fredric March and longtime Memorial Union director Porter Butts, who are both memorialized with the Fredric March Play Circle and Porter Butts Gallery at the Union.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

In August the university created a task force to advise UW-Madison on how to grapple with its past affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan. The chancellor’s announcement asked for suggestions from the group by Dec. 1, 2017 — and that deadline has come and gone.

In the wake of the Charlottesville protests, Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the university needed to “take a fresh look” at its history — namely the legacy of two student organizations in the 1920s that were named after or otherwise affiliated with the KKK.

University spokesperson Meredith McGlone said last Wednesday the December deadline was “unrealistic in retrospect.”

“You might imagine [that they are] delving back fairly deep into campus history, and the group wants to be very comprehensive and thoughtful about their approach,” McGlone said. She added that group members updated Chancellor Rebecca Blank and she supports this approach.

According to a 1924 Badger Yearbook, members of the organization titled the “Ku Klux Klan” included actor Fredric March and longtime Memorial Union director Porter Butts, who are both memorialized with the Fredric March Play Circle and Porter Butts Gallery at the Union.

Other members included the co-founder of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Thomas E. Brittingham.

The task force — chaired by professor Stephen Kantrowitz and Dr. Floyd Rose and including students, faculty, staff and alumni — is researching the extent the UW-Madison group was affiliated with the national KKK movement, their actions and their remaining legacy.

Kantrowitz declined to comment.

McGlone said UW expects the group to finish their work sometime this semester and then provide their suggestions on how to best acknowledge and respond to this piece of campus history. 

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