Following the recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests a number of institutions and organisations are re-examining their ethos’ to make them more inclusive. University College London has taken a stand to address its historical links with the controversial eugenics movement following an inquiry made earlier this year.
University College London (UCL) has now removed the names of two prominent eugenics from two lecture theatres and a building.
The University’s Galton Lecture Theatre had been named after Francis Galton, the man who first coined the term ‘eugenics’ in 1883. Galton was a cousin of Charles Darwin and believed that in order to ‘raise the present miserably low standard of the human race’ we needed to ‘breed the best with the best’.
The Pearson Lecture Theatre and the Pearson Building had both been named after Karl Pearson, the UK’s first professional chair of eugenics.
The Galton Lecture Theatre has been renamed Lecture Theatre 115; the Pearson Lecture Theatre has been changed to Lecture Theatre G22 and the Pearson Building will now be known as the North-West Wing.
The University said last week they would remove the signs on the building and lecture theatres with immediate effect and that other changes to names and maps of signposts would be made as soon as possible.
UCL’s president and provost, Prof Michael Arthur, who made the decision to rename the facilities following a series of recommendations earlier in the year told the Guardian it was “an important first step for the university.”
Eugenics was the study of selective breeding that aimed to improve the genetic quality of the human population by excluding groups deemed inferior and promoting those seen as superior.
“This problematic history has, and continues, to cause significant concern for many in our community and has a profound impact on the sense of belonging that we want all of our staff and students to have,” Prof Arthur said.
“Although UCL is a very different place than it was in the 19th century, any suggestion that we celebrate these ideas or the figures behind them creates an unwelcoming environment for many in our community”.
He added that this decision is “just one step in a journey” and that there is much more work to be done to address racism and inequality in the UCL community.
Ijeoma Uchegbu, a professor of pharmaceutical nanoscience and the provost’s envoy for race equality, said: “I cannot begin to express my joy at this decision. Our buildings and spaces are places of learning and aspiration and should never have been named after eugenicists”.