Caltech renames buildings and professorships for various characters

The first US Secretary of Education. 1995 Nobel Laureate. The first black student to graduate from Caltech. A teacher who has spent years trying to diversify the university’s students.

Their stories may not be well known at Caltech. But soon the names and legacy of Shirley Mount Hofstadler, Edward B. Lewis, Grant Dilbert Venerable and Lee F Brown will be honored across campus after the private research university announced the renaming of the professorship and the following buildings Petitions and calls from students and alumni To strip the names of eugenicists from campus.

The renaming effort at the university came after a turbulent year in which students and alumni, spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd, demanded that the school remove the name of founding president Robert A. .

Other universities, including USC, UC Berkeley, and UC Hastings College of Law, have experienced similar movements to recognize the past legacy of the campus’ founders and notable personalities.

Caltech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum said in a statement that the renaming process included “an extensive and comprehensive examination of Caltech’s history and our aspirations for the future.”

“There were honest differences of opinion, but in the end the Caltech community came together to build an inclusive path forward that is true to our values,” Rosenbaum said in an emailed statement.

As a result, the Robert A. Millikan Memorial Library formerly known as Caltech Hall, the most prominent of the campus buildings, has been renamed to indicate Caltech’s “aspiration to be an inclusive community.”

After students and alumni deliberated petitions, the university responded by setting up a committee tasked with reviewing the legacy of the men whose names appeared on campus and making recommendations. Millikan contributed significantly to the scientific community; He received a Nobel Prize for his research on the electron and built the Caltech into a leading research institute while serving as president for 24 years. But the renaming panel found a “disturbing picture” of Millikan’s view of gender, race and ethnicity. During his tenure, no women were ever appointed to the school’s faculty, and Millikan once wrote that giving blacks the right to vote was “an unimaginable disaster.”

Announcing his removal last January, Rosenbaum said, “Millikan lent his name and prestige to the morally abhorrent and scientifically discredited eugenics movement during his time.” This corrupt ideology sought to use science to improve the human race by promoting traits considered superior and educating those judged undesirable.

Sarah Sam, a student who co-authored one of the petitions as the chair of black scientists and engineers at Caltech, said she was pleased that the university had finally taken steps to end the renaming.

Additional changes have occurred since students launched a petition outlining other demands for an inclusive campus. Sam said Caltech professors and staff have taken it upon themselves to achieve some of the goals the student group has set, including increasing fellowship funds for incoming students of color and creating an orientation program for black incoming graduate students.

“I never thought that as a student I would be able to make such a huge impact on the culture,” Sam said.

The university has also increased outreach efforts with underrepresented groups and launched a climate survey on campus to receive feedback from students.

Others whose names have been removed from buildings and from professorial titles include E.S. Gosney, founder of the Human Betterment Foundation, a Pasadena-based eugenic group. Harry Chandler, former publisher of the Los Angeles Times; William B. Munro, Henry M. Robinson, and Albert B. Ruddock, all affiliated with the Human Betterment Foundation.

Lee F. Browne Dining Hall has been renamed to remove Chandler. Brown served as director of high school relations at Caltech in the 1970s and, over two decades, developed outreach programs to encourage students from unrepresented backgrounds to pursue a career in science.

The Ruddock House, a dormitory where residents were known as “The Rudds,” has already been updated to its new address, Honorable House, named after Grant D. Venerable, the first black student to graduate from Caltech. In the documents, Millikan went to the Board of Trustees to ask if Venerable should be allowed to live on campus. (Millikan ended up offering a great student residence.)

Two of the professorships have been renamed after Judge Shirley Hofstadler’s Professor and the Edward B. Lewis Professor of Biology to remove references to Millikan and Ruddock. Hofstadler has served as regent for 39 years and has helped the university increase outreach to women while advising on issues including childcare, women’s issues and public policy. Lewis, who graduated in 1942 and later joined the faculty, won a Nobel Prize for his research on how genes regulate the body’s development.

Shayna Chapner-McKinney, chair of the university’s Department of Communications, said in an email that the selection process for the new names was led by community outreach and committee deliberations.

Previously, Caltech also benefited from the Human Betterment Foundation when the founder passed away and transferred assets to the university. According to the commission’s report, during the relocation, Caltech housed the institution in a small office on campus. Funds from the deal were used to offer postdoctoral fellowships, the Gosney Fellowship, which the university last awarded in June 2020.

Michael Choi, a Caltech alumnus and UCLA professor of political science, said he felt the university did not fully acknowledge its ties to the eugenics establishment and was slow to discuss the complex legacies of people like Millikan, who are celebrated for scientific merit, while Others like Esquire is not talked about.

“If we’re not clear about our history, everyone else we’re not clear about will get involved,” Choi said. “[The renaming is] A great step, but one small step in making Caltech a welcoming place for everyone.”

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *