The Wisconsin Union announced plans to reconsider the names of campus spaces named after Klu Klux Klan fraternity members Thursday, a week after students filed a hate and bias report against the organization for not making changes sooner.
The same day students filed that report, the council met to outline an agenda to rename the Porter Butts Gallery and Fredric March Play Circle, and also create more Wisconsin Union programing that confronts unexamined racial and religious bigotry on campus.
“Students have asked Union Council to consider the impact [these names] have on the ability for the Union to live out its stated vision and values,” the release said. “Increasingly, student programmers are having to respond to charges of racism from performers and students, due to lack of action from previous requests to properly address the named spaces.”
Over the summer, the council will work closely with Stephen Kantrowitz and Christy Clark-Pujara, UW-Madison faculty who specialize in African-American history, to choose appropriate names for those spaces. They expect that new names will be revealed over the next school year.
The council will also work to develop programing that confronts the campus history UW-Madison scholars have called a “pervasive culture of racial and religious bigotry.” Its plans include creating spaces to delve into racial campus history, as well as examining current social justice issues.
In the meantime, the spaces’ names will be covered and they will simply be referred to as “The Gallery” and “Play Circle,” according to the release.
The plan to rename the gallery and play circle is a response to a study of the university’s historical ties to the KKK, published April 19.
The study was originally slated for release last December. The council said the delay complicated their efforts to form a long-term plan earlier in the semester. The wait also spurred student backlash, including the hate and bias report.
“While some slippage from the original due date can be expected, the release of the report on April 19, 2018 — just four business days before the last meeting of Union Council for the semester — has put the Council in a very untenable position,” the release said. “Unfortunately, our ability to arrive at a satisfying decision by semester’s end for these students has been severely compromised by the timing of the report.”
Update: May 7, 9:00 am An earlier version of this story said that the union would be changing the names of union spaces named after Klu Klux Klan members. The union has yet to decide if the spaces will be renamed. Additionally, it did not clarify that the klan functioned as a fraternity chapter.