There have been recent calls for the return of University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate and Oscar-winner Fredric March’s name to campus.
In 2018, March’s name was removed from the Fredric March Play Circle Theater in Memorial Union — making it the Play Circle Theater — after students voiced their concerns about his membership in an honorary interfraternity society called the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) when he was a student. The Union Council did not find any evidence indicating this organization was tied to the white supremacist group, but they voted to move forward with the removal in consideration of the impact KKK affiliations would have on students and other community members. The decision was later described as “faulty,” causing a push for March’s name to be put back.
UW-Oshkosh removed the name from one of their campus theater buildings shortly after.
Throughout the decision-making process to remove March’s name, Union Council looked into his KKK membership involvement, as well as community feedback in the form of emails, phone calls and open forums.
“Our shared governance process in Council gave voices to staff, faculty, students and alumni in this decision,” said Mark Guthier in a statement from 2018, who was Union director and Union Council member at that time.
Members of the acting community, as well as some current and former students, signed a letter pleading for the university and Union Council to rethink the name removal. Pleads for reconsideration are based on the belief that the UW-Madison Union Council conducted flawed research that showed March in an undesirable manner, the letter stated.
“And so we remain confused as to why, on both Wisconsin campuses, the avalanche of readily accessible primary – and secondary – source materials detailing Mr. March’s loud, concerted and enduring lifetime commitment to fighting racism and antisemitism was never pursued, discovered, consulted, heard or made public — and why neither UW-Madison nor UW-Oshkosh has moved to correct this clear and unconscionable rejection of conspicuously demonstrable historic truth and academic rigor,” the letter read.
Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr. and two top NAACP officials were among the signatories.
Today, the university respects the Union Council’s decision and has no plans to reconsider it.
“The decision was made by the Union Council and continues to be supported by the university,” John Lucas, the Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Communications, said in a statement. “There are no plans to revisit it.”
When asked to provide comment regarding March and his legacy on campus, Associated Students of Madison Press Officer Meghan Savaglia declined. She told the Cardinal she does not have the resources to release a statement that would reflect positively on the entire student council, but will be digging into the issue further.
While March’s name will not be displayed at the top of the Play Circle Theater, with deeper research, his name and legacy at the university could be found elsewhere, according to the Union Council.
Editors note: This article was chapter at 12 p.m. on Sept. 15 to reflect March's undisputed membership in the honorary interfraternity society called the Ku Klux Klan.