Undergraduate Student Government (SG) voted Wednesday to support the removal of Charles McMicken’s name from the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.
Though the university removed McMicken’s name from its marketing and signage last summer, no official change has been made to the college’s name.
While the resolution does not guarantee any official action from the university, it does signify SG’s written support that the college’s name should be changed.
Charles McMicken was a businessman from Pennsylvania who regularly traveled through Cincinnati for his trading enterprises. Though he was never educated himself, McMicken was an active supporter for higher education. After his death in 1858, McMicken left behind roughly $1 million to establish the University of Cincinnati.
The controversy surrounding McMicken’s name stems from his reputation as a slaveowner and racist. In his will, McMicken said he desired to fund an institution “where white boys and girls might be taught.”
“It’s one step in a series of several to a finish line of improvement,” Student Body President Sinna Habteselassie said of the proposed change. “Truthfully, slave labor, segregation — it’s a part of history, and unfortunately, it is a part of our university’s history, too. But that doesn’t mean that we have to live in that. We can grow from it.”
Megan Piepmeyer, a tribunal senator for the College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS), said the name change is an attempt to remove McMicken from history. Piepmeyer expressed concern that similar arguments could be used to advocate the removal of important landmarks, like the Lincoln Memorial or Mount Rushmore.
“You can’t deny the fact that this man funded our university. He created the university. We all wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. That doesn’t change that he did things wrong,” Piepmeyer said. “It was 1792. Are we going to slander somebody for something that was more of an issue for the country at the time?”
External Holdover Senator Chandler Rankin said the college’s name is one of many aspects of campus that should be changed to promote diversity and inclusion.
“I can attest to how it does feel, as a black student who is a part of the college, to be a part of the college and not even feel welcome,” Rankin said. “In my community, in a lot of the people I represent, in my constituency, this is highly problematic.”
But there is a difference between erasing McMicken from the university’s history and removing his name from the college, Habteselassie said.
“When I graduate, I’m not too pressed to have his history associated with my degree,” she said. “At the same time, I can acknowledge that he did a lot for our university.”