Frequently Asked Questions on Charles McMicken

Please see the president’s message to the campus community of June 27, wherein University of Cincinnati President Neville Pinto makes a recommendation to the Board of Trustees. 

To understand and appreciate full context, please read the “Report of the McMicken Working Group to the President of the University of Cincinnati”

In brief, it was Charles McMicken who left a bequest of real estate to the City of Cincinnati upon his death in 1858 that led to the founding in 1870 of the institution that we today know as the University of Cincinnati. As indicated by the 2019 working group report, he was a businessman whose business interests encompassed slave owning and trading (as well as fathering two known children by at least one, and possibly two, enslaved women).

McMicken declared in his Last Will and Testament that his bequest to Cincinnati was “for the purposes of building, establishing and maintaining as soon as practicable, after my decease, two Colleges for the education of white Boys and Girls.”

To read more-complete context on Charles McMicken and his will, please visit this 2019 report. There, you will see that Charles McMicken’s will neither requested nor required that his name be formally associated with the university in any way.  

The current recommendation to the Board is to remove the McMicken name in all remaining uses, including from the current buildings and designated physical spaces. These would include McMicken Hall, McMicken Commons, McMicken Circle and Mick and Mack’s Contemporary Café. Recommended designations for these spaces, for the time being, are Arts & Sciences Hall, Bearcats Commons, University Circle and Bearcats Café.

Some may also wonder about the current colloquial designation (Mick and Mack) for the stone lions in front of the College of Arts & Sciences.

In fact, there are no official designations or names for this statuary, and it should be clarified that the statues have no historic ties to Charles McMicken or his legacy. Nor were their current nicknames as Mick and Mack in use during their first decades on campus.

The stone lions were donated to the City of Cincinnati by a local businessman Jacob Hoffner. Hoffner, who died in 1894, was known as a traveler of some repute, and many of his artworks were copies he had commissioned of the notable pieces he viewed abroad. These emblematic lions  on UC’s campus are modeled after a famous pair of marble lions in the Loggia del Lanzi in Florence, Italy, and they graced Hoffner’s statuary garden on his Cumminsville estate. After the death of Maria Hoffner (Hoffner’s widow) in 1901, the city eventually opted to place the marble lions on campus in 1904, likely because UC was a city-owned and operated municipal university at the time.

Please read President Pinto’s June 27 message for more-complete context.

Our times have changed, and we must act on our enduring commitment to inclusive excellence, which is fundamental to the university’s responsibilities and values.

Inclusive excellence is delineated in the university’s mission statement and is very much a core pillar of our Next Lives Here strategic direction.

Previously, in December 2019, the UC Board voted unanimously to remove McMicken’s name from the College of Arts & Sciences as an academic unit. Please read the report of November 2019 for more.

This is a next step on our journey to becoming a more diverse, inclusive and welcoming community.

Previous analysis of 2018 and 2019 was quite thorough and is detailed in this report.

That recent research, analysis, widespread outreach and study process still stands.

Since that time, the president and members of the campus community have continued to consider next steps in light of changing times and context amid larger events in our nation and world. The current recommendation is the result.

Most-visible effects would be on materials associated with these physical spaces, such as signage and online campus maps. While any Board vote deciding this matter would be effective immediately, it would take time for campus operations to change out physical signage, online maps and upgrade displays related to McMicken, etc.

A previous classroom building for the university was first built on the current site for McMicken Hall/College of Arts & Sciences in 1895. (That building was later razed and replaced after World War II, when the current building was constructed.)

While that original McMicken Hall of 1895 was referred to as McMicken Hall in extant documents of the era, there is no record of a formal Board vote in the Board minutes of the late 1800s designating the original McMicken Hall by that name. So, the name – however it might have unofficially come to exist at that time – has likely been in use since 1895.

For much of its history, McMicken Circle (the arcing driveway into campus along Clifton Avenue) was either unnamed or called “Campus Drive.” In the early 1980s, campus maps began referring to the drive as McMicken Circle. This change was not the result of Board action at that time. Instead, it was a functional designation due to operational needs, e.g., postal deliveries.

The same is true for McMicken Commons. The green space today known as McMicken Commons was substantially in place in 1990; however, it had no designated name on campus maps. It came to receive that “McMicken Commons” designation on campus maps in about the year 2000. That was likely due to construction on campus at the time, as former buildings like Tanner and Beecher halls were demolished; University Pavilion was constructed, and Tangeman University Center and Steger Student Life Center were reconfigured. It’s common to provide place names on construction documents to align with nearby structures. Such functional names assist the work of many partners involved in construction projects as well as provide for a common designation for a space in the event of an ambulance, police or fire safety need.

Importantly, to change or to modify a setting is not always to erase. Indeed, change and modification are indispensable in a university that has evolved over 200 years. As such, a university’s ongoing obligation is to navigate change without erasing the past. Numerous UC entities, including colleges and a campus, have changed over the years. Buildings have been constructed, renovated, received additions, been torn down, etc. So, change in the larger life cycle of physical spaces is common. Even so, historical records are preserved.

In this case, history would be further preserved as the president’s recommendation and any resulting Board endorsement would also seek to better inform and contextualize the university’s history in this regard by means of digital displays.