Central Student Government passes resolution to support C.C. Little's renaming

Liz Barry, Special Council to the President, presents about ongoing projects of the President at the CSG meeting in the Union Tuesday.

Liz Barry, Special Council to the President, presents about ongoing projects of the President at the CSG meeting in the Union Tuesday. Buy this photo
Ayush Thakur/Daily

 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 10:11pm

Updated with CSG's statement on C.C. Little. 

Central Student Government convened on Tuesday evening to discuss the renaming of the C.C. Little Building, eventually passing the resolution to support the name change.

After efforts from student governments on campus, stemming from LSA Student Government, steps have been taken to discuss the name change of the academic building. The C.C. Little Building has a controversial past, due to its attribution to former University of Michigan President Clarence Cook Little and his role in the eugenics movement in the United States.

LSA SG Vice President Ryan Gillcrist, an LSA senior and co-author of the initial resolution, opened the discussion with a statement regarding the necessity to change the C.C. Little Building, both in an act to condemn the ideology of his work in eugenics as well as to stand in solidarity with students who feel underrepresented on campus.       

“It's incredibly important for us to preserve and to remember the past, and that’s exactly why we have libraries and museums and the department of history,” he said. “But it's equally as important to learn from the past. Right now, we have a building that’s named after someone who, if he were here today, would have believed that thousands of people who have walked these grounds are unfit to be members of society.”

CSG members discussed the distinction between controversial science and ideology which, presently, is no longer appropriate to preserve.

Members affirmed the ideology of C.C. Little’s work is against what the University stands for as an institution, and the act of changing the name would demonstrate solidarity with the beliefs of the current administration.

“One of the big things that I find extremely troubling about this situation is how normalized the name is within the campus community, so a lot of the times, students don’t even realize that buildings are named after vice presidents, let alone the history there,” said CSG Vice President Nadine Jawad, a Public Policy senior. 

Engineering sophomore Zeke Majeske claimed since the building’s name does not hold significance to the vast majority of the student population, this action would ultimately be ineffective.

He also pointed out the connection between C.C. Little and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who were both part of the eugenics movement but are not both condemned by University students today.

He attempted to amend the language of a section of the resolution that connected C.C. Little to the rhetoric which inspired Nazism, arguing Little’s actions historically preceded and thus were not linked to the rise of Hitler. He said C.C. Little was speaking in a scientific context and Nazism appropriated that thinking. However, the other members did not join Majeske in his amendment and it failed.

The original resolution eventually passed, with 25 in favor and four against renaming the C.C. Little Building.

Majeske later said in an interview with The Daily he had concerns with the lack of historical context in the resolution.

“I voted no because I thought the resolution was really one-sided. I didn’t think they brought up any of the concerns of the people who actually didn’t want the building to change its name,” he said.

Majeske also added that the suggestions made during the first read of the resolution from the last meeting’s read of the resolution did not make it to the final draft presented Tuesday. He also had concerns with the assembly releasing a statement on the resolution after the its passing, stating it may add more about context that he is not aware of and may add something he did not technically support.

Majeske also said the resolution did not offer any alternatives — however, other alternatives surrounding the renaming of the C.C. Little Building suggest changing it to the name of the first Black woman to graduate from the University: the Mary Henrietta Graham Science Building.

He said he spoke with other members of CSG after the meeting who shared concerns, as well as Engineering students who he said did not feel strongly about the renaming of the C.C. Little Building.

Majeske said he did not think it was necessary to change the building’s name to improve upon the inclusivity of the University. He said he believed CSG’s power is best used to improve the initiatives already set in place and was doubtful of the University and Board of Regents’ willingness to change the name.

CSG president Anushka Sarkar, an LSA senior, went to the Board of Regents recently to petition for the renaming of the C.C. Little Building.

Majeske emphasized the lack of historical context in the resolution, stating that mentioning this would make the resolution a more logical argument if they compared Little to other people of his time. He quoted a statement released by University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald.

“‘It is easy to blame those in the past for lacking the knowledge, wisdom and values that we seem to possess. … An institution of knowledge must leave room for an essential truth: The search for new knowledge through research is messy.’ It didn’t seem like anyone else — at least the people who wrote the resolution — thought it was necessary to talk about this in the resolution,” he said, adding that the authors were going to add Little’s place in his time period in the statement instead of the resolution to be passed. “But to me, that’s a big part of the equation — whether or not I support this resolution — where he is in his own historical context.”

CSG released a statement Wednesday night. It includes information about Little's place relative to his time period. 

Guest speaker Liz Barry, special counsel to the president’s office, then discussed the office’s efforts to strengthen the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives — especially for students focused on STEM.

One member voiced their concern about the representation of minorities in the field of science, as well as how faculty at the University can cater to the needs of these students.

“We know that if you’re trying to improve diversity in STEM fields, you really have to start with a pipeline,” she said. “In general, especially in academic science, it just gets narrower and narrower. If you don’t start out with a diverse group and engage a diverse group, you won’t end up with a diverse faculty. And you won’t end up with research results that reflect the benefits of that diversity as well.”

Barry also invited students to contact the president's office to voice their opinion on the efforts of their organizations on campus to add to University discourse.