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UW-Madison information on Play Circle Theater naming issue

August 28, 2022

UW-Madison acknowledges the prolific acting career and civil rights record of alumnus Fredric March, but also notes the present-day effect of his and others’ participation in a student organization that took the name of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.

The Wisconsin Union at UW–Madison has been governed by a student-majority governing board since 1928 – including during the time when Mr. March’s name was added to UW’s Play Circle Theater within Memorial Union in 1978 and again when students determined his contributions should be recognized in another manner.

Union Council, the Wisconsin Union’s governing board, was provided with information on Fredric March, including March’s civil rights efforts, and took part in a months-long process that included public forums with students, staff, faculty, alumni and other community members.

Overwhelmingly, the community expressed strong objection to any connection to campus groups taking the name of or in any way associated with the name “Ku Klux Klan,” no matter the function of the group, and requested that Council rename the spaces.

Union Council decided to rename the spaces after receiving this feedback and based on a commitment to creating a welcoming environment for all members of the community. In making its decision, the governing body took into account that the “Ku Klux Klan” Fredric March took part in does not have a documented connection to the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

An extensive archive of this process is posted.

Last September, then-Chancellor Rebecca Blank outlined her support for the decision in a column in the New York Times.

In lieu of the theater name, March is now included in a historic storytelling display on the same floor as the Play Circle as recognition of his role in UW–Madison history.