The Wisconsin Union Council has announced that the names of Porter Butts and Frederic March, both members of Ku Klux Klan-affiliated groups in the 1920s, will be covered up for the fall semester at least through December of 2018.
The Porter Butts Gallery will be simply known as “The Gallery” and the Frederic March Play Circle as “The Play Circle” in all promotional materials until a final decision is made.
The move, decided by a resolution at the Council’s April 25 meeting, comes after an ad-hoc committee released a report urging a detailed and in-depth study of racism and prejudice in the University’s history before changing the names of any rooms. Chancellor Rebecca Blank convened the committee last fall not to address the issue of room names specifically, but rather in response to the racially charged riots in Charlottesville, Virginia last summer, which began with debate over the removal of Confederate monuments.
The Council’s resolution notes that the report was due December 1, 2017, but was not released until April 19, just four business days before the Council’s final meeting of the semester. This delay “has put the Council in a very untenable position. UW-Madison students have been waiting most of the year to see what the Union will do in response to the report,” the resolution says.
In addition to covering the names, the Council’s resolution calls for the Union to issue a firm decision on the names of the rooms by the end of 2018. Additionally, the resolution says the Union should create informational signage to place outside The Gallery and The Play Circle, develop a “Social Justice Incubator” program at the Union, develop new methods to more adequately reflect the Union’s history in its signage, and create a clear and defined process for naming spaces in the future.
To ensure timely action on these initiatives, the Union Council resolved not to take its normal summer hiatus, but rather will continue to meet monthly.
At least one hate and bias incident report has been filed regarding the names of the rooms, by senior Adan Raed Abu-Hakmeh. She did not immediately respond to a message from Madison365 on Monday.