As protests over the police killing of George Floyd raged across the nation, USC removed the name of one of its most influential leaders from a landmark building on campus.
The decision to strip the name of its fifth president, Rufus B. von KleinSmid, a eugenics leader, from among its tallest buildings brought cheers. President Carol Folt said the name removal was necessary because his beliefs were “at direct odds” with the university’s values.
But weeks later, some students and others are raising questions about a host of names and symbols on campus, examining whether they too should be purged at this historic moment of reckoning. The emerging debate is shaping up to be a test of whether the tradition-bound university is willing to break with other pieces of its history and address wrongs of the past.
“Names matter,” said Paula Cannon, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, and co-chair of a task force looking at building names. “And sometimes, it’s not enough to just say it was a long time ago.”
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