Walking into McMicken Hall carries such weight. I think of Charles McMicken, whom the building is named after, and his legacy as a slave trader. I think of his use of enslaved labor at his home. I think of the enslaved woman, or women, he impregnated with his children. I think of how disgusted I am that the University of Cincinnati (UC) continues to allow this hideous figure to hold a place of honor at our campus.
We should have changed the name of McMicken Hall years ago—when a 2018 study led to a unanimous vote to remove his name from the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S). His name and the atrocities attached to it, were removed from the college, but the ghost of McMicken continues to haunt our campus.
I am an A&S student, so there seems to be no way for me to avoid the building. It is home to at least one of my classes every semester, and every time I want to meet with one of my advisors, I must walk the halls that refuse to let go of the name of a racist who treated Black people as property that he could own, control and exploit.
That said, I am a white person, so I cannot imagine the pain a Black student might feel walking through a building that still idolizes a slave owner.
"As an African American student, I shouldn’t have to walk in and see that the building is named after a slave owner," Maurice Stewart, UC alum, told WCPO during the summer of 2020. "Regardless of the context. Especially if the university is dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion."
It is quite ironic that UC boasts of being a "diversity champion" but refuses to do the absolute bare minimum of removing McMicken's name from the building. It's not as if we haven't asked time and time again.
Stewart reached out to President Neville Pinto's office in 2020 about completely wiping McMicken's name from campus. They refused.
Back in March of this year, The News Record investigated why the name change hadn’t occurred. Not a peep.
So, why is it so hard to remove the name from the building? One word: money.
"Donors, especially the most generous and loyal ones, will be very upset were the name to be removed," read anonymous, paraphrased feedback that the 2018 study received. "The university will suffer great financial losses."
How fitting? UC is a "diversity champion," as long as that doesn't get in the way of money. Well, I have had it with the trend of progress happening only because it can turn a profit. Real progress is doing what's right, even when facing potentially angry donors.
UC cannot just wait for this to blow over, and we as community members cannot allow this to blow over either. Too often, we rally around a cause until a new one rolls around, leaving the old one completely forgotten about.
Remember, we have power here. Let's keep pushing Pinto and UC until this slave owner's legacy no longer finds a home at UC.