California Institute of Technology renames buildings and professorships in different faces

California Institute of Technology renames buildings and professorships in different faces

First US Secretary of Education. 1995 Nobel Prize Laureate. First black student to graduate from California Institute of Technology. An educator who has been trying to diversify the university student population for years.

Their stories may not have been known at the California Institute of Technology. But soon the names and legacies of Shirley Mount Hufstadler, Edward B. Lewis, Grant Delbert Veneble, and Lee F. Brown will be celebrated throughout the campus after a private research university announced the renaming of faculty and buildings following petitions and calls from students and alumni. … cross the names of eugenics off campus.

The efforts to rename the university came after a tumultuous year when students and alumni, spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement following the assassination of George Floyd, demanded that the school remove Founding President Robert A. Millikan’s name for his support for eugenics. …

Other universities, including USC, UC Berkeley, and UC Hastings College of the Law, have seen similar movements to recognize the past legacy of campus founders and prominent figures.

California Institute of Technology President Thomas F. Rosenbaum said in a statement that the renaming process includes “an intensive and careful study of Caltech’s history and our hopes for the future.”

“There were genuine differences of opinion,” Rosenbaum said in an e-mail statement, “but in the end the Caltech community came together to build a comprehensive path forward, true to our values.”

As a result, the formerly famous Robert A. Millikan Memorial Library was renamed Caltech Hall, the most famous campus building, to signify “Caltech’s commitment to being an inclusive community.”

After students and alumni circulated the petitions, the university responded by forming a committee tasked with examining the legacy of the people whose names appeared on campus and making recommendations. Millikan made a great contribution to the scientific community; he received the Nobel Prize for his research on the electron and made California Institute of Technology a leading research institute with 24 years as president. But the renaming committee found a “disturbing picture” of Millikan’s views on gender, race, and ethnicity. During his time at school, no woman was recruited into the school’s faculty, and Millikan once wrote that giving black people the right to vote was “an unthinkable disaster.”

Announcing that his name would be removed last January, Rosenbaum said that “Millikan lent his name and his prestige to a morally reprehensible eugenics movement that was already scientifically discredited in his time.” This discredited ideology sought to use science to improve the human race, promoting traits that were considered superior and inferring those that were considered undesirable.

Sarah Sam, a student who co-sponsored one of the petitions as president of California Institute of Technology Black Scientists and Engineers, said she is very pleased that the university has finally taken steps to complete the renaming.

Additional changes came after students filed a petition outlining other requirements for an inclusive campus. According to Sam, the professors and staff at the California Institute of Technology have taken on some of the tasks set by the student group, including increasing funds for scholarships for incoming students of color and creating an orientation program for incoming color graduates.

“I never thought I could have such a huge cultural impact as a student,” Sam said.

The university has also stepped up its work with under-represented groups and has begun research on campus climate to get feedback from students.

Other figures whose names have been removed from buildings and professorships include E.S. Ghosney, founder of the Human Betterment Foundation, a Pasadena-based eugenics group; Harry Chandler, former publisher of the Los Angeles Times; William B. Munroe, Henry M. Robinson, and Albert B. Ruddock, all of whom were affiliated with the Human Quality Improvement Foundation.

Lee F. Brown’s dining room was renamed to remove Chandler. Brown served as California Institute of Technology’s director of high school relations in the 1970s and spent two decades developing outreach programs to encourage underrepresented students to pursue careers in science.

The website of Ruddock House, a hostel whose residents were known as the “Ruddies,” has already been given a new name – “Honorable House,” named after Grant D. Venable, the first black student to graduate from California Institute of Technology. In the documents, Millikan asked the board of trustees whether or not the Reverend should be allowed to live on campus. (Millikan eventually suggested a student residence.)

Two professors were renamed Judge Professor Shirley Hufstadler and Edward B. Lewis Professor of Biology to remove references to Millikan and Ruddock. Hoofstedler has been a confidant for 39 years and has helped the university expand its reach to women, advising on issues such as childcare, women’s issues, and government policy. Lewis, who graduated from university in 1942 and later joined the faculty, received the Nobel Prize for his research on how genes regulate development in the body.

As Shayna Chabner-McKinney, the university’s director of public affairs, said in an email, the selection process for the new names was driven by public relations and committee discussions.

Earlier, Caltech also benefited from the Human Betterment Foundation when the founder died and transferred the assets to the university. During the transfer process, Caltech placed the foundation in a small office on campus, according to the committee’s report. He used the proceeds from the transaction to offer doctoral scholarships, the Gosney Scholarships, which the university last awarded in June 2020.

Michael Choe, a California Institute of Technology graduate and professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, said he felt the university was not fully aware of its ties to the eugenics foundation and was in no rush to discuss the complex legacy of people like Millikan, who were famous for their scientific merit, while others were not mentioned about the monk.

“If we’re not sure about our own story, then everyone else we don’t know is involved,” Choe said. “[The renaming is] a big step, but another small step towards making Caltech a welcoming place for everyone. “

Subscribe

Get the best of Newspaper delivered to your inbox daily

Most Viewed

Related Stories