Little Hall on the University of Maine campus in Orono is shown in June 2020. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The University of Maine System now has a policy for renaming campus facilities six months after it changed the name of a UMaine building named for a former eugenicist.

When the university system’s trustees voted to rename Clarence Cook Little Hall in September 2020, the system’s policy for naming facilities was silent on removing names from facilities or renaming buildings. The trustees on Monday approved a new policy that addresses changing or removing facility names.

Under the new policy, the Board of Trustees has the right to remove a building name “under extraordinary circumstances when the continued use of the honoree’s name would compromise the public trust and reflect adversely upon the university and/or University of Maine System and its reputation.”

It sets up a process for renaming a facility. And it requires that any agreement to name a facility as part of a campus donation include a “morals clause,” which protects the universities from financial consequences for changing a name when it “brings discredit upon the university.”

Last year, UMaine sought approval to rename the building named after Clarence Cook Little in 1966. Little was a former UMaine president from 1922 to 1925. He brought more funding to UMaine than any previous president and went on to start The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor in 1929. But later in his career, he served as a scientific voice for the tobacco industry at a time when it denied the link between smoking and cancer. He was also a president of the American Eugenics Society.

Eugenics was a movement aimed at improving the genetic quality of the human population, historically 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.

The process any campus must now follow to recommend a name removal resembles the one UMaine developed to recommend changing the name of Little Hall. A task force must present “grounds for removal” in a written report after seeking input from a diverse group of stakeholders. The university system chancellor and the president’s council would then review the request and decide whether to refer it to the Board of Trustees for a final vote on the name change.

UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy convened a task force in March 2020 to consider renaming Little Hall in response to a student petition. That task force recommended last June that the building instead be named after a person of Wabanaki descent, a historically significant Black person or woman.