Debating the Legacy of C. C. Little

CC Little Debate

Welcome to the Re-Launch of the LSA Blog!

We’ll be debating the legacy of Clarence C. Little on campus this fall and whether the university ought to remove his name from the C.C. Little Building. A team of faculty colleagues, along with an undergraduate History Honors student who is writing his thesis on Little, worked hard this summer to assemble a document that lays out the case for and against removing his name. On balance they come down on the side of removal but its important to note that what they put forward is a fair, well-researched and multifaceted examination of Little’s involvement with eugenicist causes and his work on behalf of the tobacco industry to cast doubt on the connections between smoking and cancer. He is treated critically but respectfully and care is taken to acknowledge his important contributions, especially in genetics research and the founding of the Jackson Laboratory at Bar Harbor, Maine. I didn’t contribute to the document but have agreed to help make it publicly available to members of the U-M community.

The official request to remove C.C. Little’s name was submitted on September 1st. You can now view the cover letter, the full document and university guidelines on renaming.

If you are persuaded by the case put forth you can also endorse the request. It’s called a “petition” because of the nature of the website, and has a set “goal” of 10,000, which is entirely arbitrary. The point is to make the documents available and allow members of the community to endorse (or not) and leave comments. By doing so we hope to model — for our students and for ourselves — what a reasoned debate can look like. We can all acknowledge that people of goodwill and intelligence can disagree on whether the name ought to be changed, and that they may propose different remedies. Such debates ought to be informed and they ought to remain civil.

The official request does not put forth a specific alternative, but there is no shortage of options. Numerous distinguished past members of the faculty and campus community have never been honored in this fashion. If honorific names can never be changed then this leaves us with precious few opportunities to do so given that buildings are finite and many new ones have the names of donors affixed. Thinking about this through the lens of efforts to make the campus more inclusive, diverse and equitable would also make good sense at this important juncture in the university’s history. The first half of the LSA Bicentennial Theme Semester explored the past; the second half, this term, is about the future.

To learn more about the debate over C.C. Little’s legacy and the campaign to rename the C.C. Little Building, join us September 26th at To Rename or to Remain: C. C. Little, a panel and forum at the Michigan League, Room 4.