McMicken no more? UC president Pinto recommends removal of slave-owning founder's name

·3 min read
Students walk passed McMicken Hall on the campus of the University of Cincinnati on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. Monday marked the start of classes at the University of Cincinnati.
Students walk passed McMicken Hall on the campus of the University of Cincinnati on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. Monday marked the start of classes at the University of Cincinnati.

Update: UC cuts ties with slave-owning founder Charles McMicken with unanimous board vote

University of Cincinnati President Neville Pinto will recommend the university strip its founder Charles McMicken's name from campus, effectively immediately, at Tuesday's board of trustees meeting.

McMicken donated the money and land that built the university in the late 1800s "for the education of white Boys and Girls." He also owned slaves and fathered children with one, and possibly two, enslaved women.

His public connection to the university, often used in promotional materials and displayed in on-campus buildings, has been the subject of debate for years. In 2019, the ongoing discussion prompted the removal of McMicken's name from the College of Arts and Sciences.

Now, Pinto says he wants McMicken's affiliation with the university to be removed entirely – including perhaps the most iconic building on campus, McMicken Hall.

Pinto requested a group of university officials, professors, alumni and student leaders convene in 2019 to assess the university's affiliation with McMicken. The group found McMicken's name "betrays academic values" and symbolizes "the university's failure to commit fully to the principles of diversity and inclusion that it professes." They recommended the university establish a process for reconsidering commemorative naming on campus.

More: The origins of UC are complicated

Although McMicken's name was removed from the College of Arts and Sciences, it remained on an academic hall, roadway and café on campus.

The recommendation: McMicken name 'holding us back' from sustaining inclusive campus

The board's decision in 2019 to remove McMicken's name from the College of Arts and Sciences "was a critical step on our journey to becoming a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming community," Pinto wrote in a Monday note to the UC community. The UC Foundation has since also removed McMicken's name from its honorary societies and scholarships.

Charles McMicken donated the money and land that built the University of Cincinnati.
Charles McMicken donated the money and land that built the University of Cincinnati.

"Since then, our times have changed," Pinto wrote. "Our nation’s soul has been tested yet again. We have witnessed tragedy after heart-wrenching tragedy – lives lessened or lost due to hate, injustice, inequality and exclusion. 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."

Pinto said he is recommending the board now vote to remove McMicken's name in all uses, effective immediately, including from McMicken Commons, McMicken Circle and Mick & Mack's Contemporary Café. Mick and Mack refer to the two lion statues that have stood for more than a century on the western steps into McMicken Hall (the original was razed and rebuilt for the current version six decades ago).

"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," Pinto wrote.

Oscar Robertson's image is displayed on McMicken Hall during Community Day to celebrate UC's Bicentennial Saturday, April 6, 2019, at McMicken Commons on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. Photo by Jay Yocis/University of Cincinnati
Oscar Robertson's image is displayed on McMicken Hall during Community Day to celebrate UC's Bicentennial Saturday, April 6, 2019, at McMicken Commons on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. Photo by Jay Yocis/University of Cincinnati

In the meantime, Pinto said, those spaces with McMicken's name will be rebranded as Arts & Sciences Hall, Bearcats Commons, University Circle and Bearcats Café. He also recommends the university upgrade its digital displays "to better reflect McMicken's legacy and the university's complex historical connection to him."

The university's board of trustees will meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Teachers College on campus. The meeting will also be streamed on Zoom.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: University of Cincinnati president recommends removing McMicken name