UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt announced Tuesday that the Frederic March Theatre would be renamed the Theatre Arts Center due to March’s membership in a fraternal organization called the Ku Klux Klan while a student at UW-Madison.
The name of March, an Oscar-winning stage and film actor who attended UW-Madison in the 1920s, adorned the Frederic March Play Circle at the Wisconsin Union on the UW-Madison campus until August 2018, when it was removed. That change came after a yearlong process of fact-finding and community discussion regarding the fact that March was a member of the organization.
The student organization, which was active on the UW-Madison campus for just a few years in the 1920s, was not affiliated with the national Ku Klux Klan, but the UW-Madison task force studying the matter found “an identification—or, at the very least, no meaningful discomfort—with the widely known violent actions of the Reconstruction-era Klan as it was remembered, celebrated, and given new cultural and institutional life in the early twentieth century.”
In a statement issued Tuesday, Leavitt implied he wasn’t interested in splitting hairs over whether the UW-Madison Klan was affiliated with the national Klan or not.
“I no longer possess—and this institution should reject—the privilege of nuancing explanations as to how a person even tangentially affiliated with an organization founded on hate has his name honorifically posted on a public building,” he wrote.
In the statement he said he had heard “shock and pain from UWO community members and stakeholders urging the administration to remove March’s name from the Oshkosh campus theatre” ever since March’s affiliation with the UW-Madison KKK organization was revealed in 2018.
In a media call Tuesday, Leavitt said the signage bearing March’s name has already been removed from the building. He also said a diverse group of students is working on a mural celebrating the multicultural diversity of the UW-Oshkosh community on the back of Albee Hall on campus.