Chancellor Blank asks study group to review history of student involvement with KKK

August 21, 2017

Chancellor Rebecca Blank released the following statement today:

UW-Madison rejects the ideologies of white supremacist groups and all groups that express hatred of people because of their identities. These organizations are antithetical to the values of respect and inclusion that our university strives to represent.

Many in Madison are aware that during the 1920s there were two student organizations on campus named after or otherwise affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan. This has been written about over time in articles published by the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Capital Times and other places.

In the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville, it is time to take a fresh look at our history to ensure that we fully understand and appropriately acknowledge the activities of members of the campus community during this time period.

We also need to ensure that how we acknowledge this history reflects our institutional values of respect and inclusion for all people. This is work we’ve recently undertaken with regards to naming and signage on campus that will reflect the Native history of the lands on which UW–Madison sits.

To that end, I am asking an ad hoc study group to research the history of these student organizations, including the extent to which they were affiliated with the national KKK movement, their actions and legacies.

The study group, which will be co-chaired by Professor Stephen Kantrowitz and Dr. Floyd Rose and include students, faculty, staff and alumni, will also be asked to advise by Dec. 1, 2017, how best the campus can acknowledge and respond to this history.

In addition, I am asking the leadership of the Wisconsin Union to begin to identify space within the renovated Memorial Union building that could be used to document the history of these student organizations on campus, using the knowledge produced by this study group.