The University of Cincinnati is pursuing further research before deciding whether to remove Charles McMicken’s name from the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S).
In November 2018, some students, faculty and staff began advocating for the removal of the McMicken’s name, arguing that his history as a racist and a slaveowner is incompatible with the university’s progressive, inclusive trajectory.
UC President Neville Pinto has appointed a working group to gain input from the community and outline next steps. The group is charged with deciding what to do with the McMicken name on campus — specifically, recommending whether the university should remove McMicken’s name from A&S.
Debra Merchant, vice president for student affairs, spoke to the Undergraduate Student Government (SG) student senate to discuss the issue. Before conversation began, senators read a detailed background on McMicken and were asked to respond to two prompts:
- “Given what you’ve read, there’s always the option to do nothing.”
- “If we [the university] are going to do something, what might that be?”
Some senators argued the importance of honoring McMicken for his contributions to the university, fearing a name change would erase history. However, many students said a “do-nothing” approach is not a viable option.
“We’re judging him by a standard [in] which we live today, not by a standard which he lived then,” said secretary Nathan Halbisen. “Either way the commission goes, I am okay with it. I would really appreciate, whatever is done, that we have that opportunity and manner that does not set out to degrade him as a person.”
Senator Emma Nurre highlighted contemporary cultural changes, saying McMicken’s values contradict the strategic direction of the university.
“The identity of the man whose name and building stand under contradicts our values and our progressive moment as a student organization and as a university,” said Nurre.
With the “Next Lives Here” strategic initiative, Nurre said, it makes no sense to do nothing.
“We live in one of the most diverse cities in Ohio, and we should be celebrating that diversity,” said senator Mariam Elgafy. “Our university has been taking steps to celebrate that diversity, and that option of just doing nothing just should not be an option … There are many different avenues we can take.”
Abbie Smith, student body vice president, said attempting to remove the name is not a bad option, considering A&S graduates will have McMicken’s name on their diplomas.
Chandler Rankin, student body president, said he doesn’t think calls to remove McMicken’s name aim to erase history.
“Charles McMicken’s legacy is deeply engraved in this university,” said Rankin. “When I look at the college specifically, removing his name isn’t necessarily trying to erase history, but confirming a commitment that our university has set to certain values, like equity and inclusion.”
Merchant will take the senate’s feedback back to the working group, and a campus-wide input session will take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, in Swift Hall.