The University of Maine will seek approval to rename a campus building named for a former university president who was also a known eugenicist and tobacco industry spokesperson at a time when the industry denied the link between smoking and cancer.
University of Maine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy said Monday she will ask for the University of Maine System to approve a name change for Clarence Cook Little Hall on the Orono campus of the state’s flagship university.
The request came after task a force Ferrini-Mundy convened in March concluded that Little’s name should be removed from the building in a report issued last Tuesday. The task force recommended that the building instead be named after a person of Wabanaki descent, a historically significant Black person or woman.
The university president convened the 10-person task force in part due to a student petition to rename Little Hall.
“I agree with the task force that the renaming of Little Hall is necessary,” Ferrini-Mundy said in a statement issued Monday. “It provides an opportunity to promote reflection and conversations about the meaning of diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus, and to address specific issues of racism.”
The University of Maine System Board of Trustees will have to approve the recommendation in a vote during its September meeting.
Clarence Cook Little served as the sixth president of the University of Maine, from 1922 to 1925. Before that, he had served as president of the University of Michigan.
Little also started The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor and was a scientist, an academic and a researcher.
He brought more funding to UMaine than any of his predecessors had, but he was also an outspoken proponent of the tobacco industry in addition to being a eugenicist.
Eugenics aims to improve the genetic quality of the human population by excluding people and groups judged to be inferior and promoting those judged to be superior. The term is now associated with white supremacy and racism. Little was a president of the American Eugenics Society.
In 2018, the University of Michigan removed his name from a campus building. At the time, UMaine spokesperson Margaret Nagle said that UMaine had no such plans, the Portland Press Herald reported.
On the same day as Ferrini-Mundy’s decision, UMaine senior Karim Seifeldin started another petition demanding the renaming of Little Hall.
“It is my firm belief that what C.C. Little stood for, and his values are in direct conflict with those of our campus and community in 2020,” Seifeldin said in his email to UMaine professors. “With such a diverse group of students from all over the world, the time is now for us to get on the right side of history.”