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UC drops McMicken name from all campus spaces, citing it as 'symbolism of exclusion'

an expanse of green lawn leads to a Large brick building with a blue sky and fluffy clouds
Andrew Higley
University of Cincinnati
UC's McMicken Hall will be renamed, for now, Arts & Sciences Hall.

The University of Cincinnati will change the names of four spaces on campus bearing the name of Charles McMicken, an enslaver and the university's main sponsor in the 1800s.

"I have spoken with several members of our campus community on how we together can best nurture and support a culture of inclusion moving forward," UC President Neville Pinto said Tuesday. "Though the audiences differ, the message remains much the same: The prominence of McMicken's name on campus and the symbolism of exclusion it represents is holding us back from creating and sustaining a full sense of belonging for all. Today, I ask the board to help us take another pivotal step on our journey forward. I recommend we remove McMicken's name and all uses effective immediately."

Pinto requested the Board of Trusteesapprove a motion to rename McMicken Hall, McMicken Commons, McMicken Circle and Mick & Mack's Contemporary Cafe.

"Our nation's soul has been tested yet again. We have witnessed tragedy after heart-wrenching tragedy, and lives lessened or lost due to hate, injustice, inequality and exclusion," he continued. "As some communities rise together to fight racism, others are being ripped apart by it. We cannot allow division or despair to define our nation, much less our campus community. We must act. As the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho reminds us, the world is changed by our example, not by our opinion."

The UC Board of Trustees approved the request unanimously.

The areas will be renamed, for now, as Arts & Sciences Hall, Bearcats Commons, University Circle and Bearcats Cafe. Digital displays should also be updated to reflect McMicken's legacy and "the university's complex historical connection to him," Pinto said.

The name changes are a follow-on to discussions that began several years ago about the use of McMicken's name.

The boardvoted in 2019 to remove McMicken's name from the College of Arts & Sciences. Signage was to be added at that time to buildings where the name remained to add context to those areas.

Parts of McMicken's wealth came from the enslavement of African people and he used this wealth to become the main sponsor for the University of Cincinnati. In 1858, McMicken wrote that the institution should educate "white boys and girls."

A university-wide working group began examining McMicken's historical connection to the College of Arts & Sciences in 2018.

UC has aFAQ section about that group's work and Charles McMicken. For those who may be wondering about the stone lions, known to many as "Mick" and "Mack," the university states:

"In fact, there are no official designations or names for this statuary, and it should be clarified that the statues have no historic ties to Charles McMicken or his legacy. Nor were their current nicknames as Mick and Mack in use during their first decades on campus."

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.