To Rename or Remain? An Interview with Joshua Hasler

Last week, the University hosted a panel in the Michigan League entitled “To Rename or Remain” to address the possibility of renaming the C.C. Little Science Building. Before the panel, several different groups of protesters — primarily from By Any Means Necessary, BBUM, and the Black Student Union — marched through the Diag and to the Fishbowl, wearing bloodied clothing and holding signs as they vocally disavowed C.C. Little, a former U of M president and board member for the American Eugenics Society.

Once the groups arrived at the panel, they received the opportunity to voice some of their concerns related to the possible building renaming. Primarily, protesters seemed disenchanted with the amount of time University administrators have taken to address the issue. Many felt the building name is harmful to the climate on campus, with some claiming it exemplifies an overarching theme of alleged “white supremacy”.

According to Hasler, “Little was one of the founding fathers of the American eugenics movement […] and it became clear to me that he stood for white supremacy”.

I spoke with LSA senior Joshua Hasler following his participation on the panel to discuss C.C. Little’s life story, the renaming effort, and the implications it carries through a broader societal lens. Josh explained that when he began learning about C.C. Little during a sophomore year history project, he was surprised to learn of Little’s connections to the American eugenics movement, especially of his serving on the American Eugenics Society board of directors. According to Hasler, “Little was one of the founding fathers of the American eugenics movement […] and it became clear to me that he stood for white supremacy”. Furthermore, he discussed how Little had interest in implementing racially motivated policies, including bans on interracial sex, selective immigration and compulsory sterilization — all aspects of eugenics promoted by the American Eugenics Society.

Overall, Hasler concluded that he is proud to be apart of a desire on campus to change the name of the CC Little building, and emphasized how important it is to listen and amplify the voices of those who have been historically oppressed in this country, as this is paramount if we desire progress.

Hasler explained that after he learned this, he felt compelled to change the name of the building, citing that it caused students of color trauma, in addition to the fact that Little’s views clearly stand in staunch contrast to University values. However, are there not other historical figures that remain in stark contrast to our current values? Absolutely, and indeed many people fail to recognize how many of these individuals, like Little, are commonplace in our everyday lives. In fact, Joshua referenced how C.C. Little was close with John Harvey Kellogg, founder of Kellogg’s Cereal and known supporter of eugenics. Indeed, when pressed on the matter of whether to rename Kellogg’s Cereal due to its eugenic namesake, Hasler explained these discussions should focus on  “the harm that [the name] is doing”. If some groups believe a name is doing harm, according to Hasler, it warrants discussion and possibly action.

So, to rename these institutions, or not to rename? Hasler indicated he is open to discussion, and that such a discussion should focus primarily on the opinions of minority groups, especially those that feel they have been affected by the name, either presently or in the larger historical context. Overall, Hasler concluded that he is proud to be apart of a desire on campus to change the name of the CC Little building, and emphasized how important it is to listen and amplify the voices of those who have been historically oppressed in this country, as this is paramount if we desire progress.

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