Photo Credits: Schmucker Science Center by Ben Kuebrich
Following the criticism and calls for the removal of the Schmucker Science Center name, West Chester University has begun the process of investigating, terminating and renaming the building. On Mar. 20, an email had been sent from WCU President Fiorentino’s office that had announced the current and future steps toward the possible renaming of the building. The email had announced the enactment of a new policy for naming—or renaming—University facilities and programs, as well as the creation of a committee to investigate the Schmucker case.
During the Fall 2022 semester, an article authored by “concerned students” was published, exposing a problematic history of Samuel Schmucker, who the Schmucker Science Center is named after. The article stated that Schmucker, a former professor at West Chester State Normal School, held racist, sexist and ableist beliefs that he applied to eugenicist theories which he also published. Current students, distraught by the news, began to petition for the change of the name. Some students formed the Students Against Schmucker organization in protest. After petitioning and advocating for months, students were finally given answers at a town hall meeting and the email sent to the student body.
The email marked the timeline of events for the possible termination of the Schmucker name. In October, the West Chester University Council of Trustees passed the Naming University Facilities and Programs Policy, in which the Council could suspend the use of a facility or program name due to certain circumstances. These circumstances include if there is potential harm to the University’s reputation, image or mission because of association to a name or person. Under this policy, the Schmucker name can be investigated and up for termination due to its problematic history.
Students Against Schmucker (SAS) have been investigating and advocating for the removal of the name for months since its history had been uncovered and are expecting to see some progress. SAS member Mara Gross remarked, “Yes, I do think they’ve made progress, but the way it was formulated was through the efforts of our grassroots community bringing it to light. Before this process, before there was more pressure to rename the building, we received little to no response… So, while it’s great to know that they’ve formed a committee and hope to have the name removed come summer, I’d like to think that progress was made through communal push.”
Alongside the policy, a committee was created to take further steps in the possible removal and replacement of the Schmucker name. The committee of eight is composed of faculty, staff, alumni and current students. President Fiorentino sent forward a procedure to investigate and possibly terminate the name of certain facilities on campus and outlined the guidelines for a proposed name change. The evidence and documentation that could lead to the termination of the Schmucker name had been provided to the committee in order to come to a decision.
The Committee, although partially made up by students, does not consist of any member of SAS. “None of us are in the committee, which is upsetting and not by choice. If I had the opportunity, I would’ve gladly joined,” Gross said. However, there is some hope for what the committee consists of. “I know of one student on the committee who is a POC student, though, which I am happy to hear about. Even if we aren’t involved, one of our goals in being involved was making sure diverse voices were selected and uplifted in this process, so I am genuinely really happy they have some diverse perspectives from people who are marginalized from works like Schmucker’s—that’s really what’s important.”
As of now, it is unknown what the Schmucker Science Center will be renamed to, but the same policy outlined the criteria for future naming of facilities and programs. Philanthropy or donations to support the University’s goals are encouraged in exchange for naming ownership. However, donations are not the only opportunities for naming. Facilities and programs may also be named after a distinguished person who has greatly serviced or contributed to the University and its development. Students are hopeful that whatever the name change may be, that it will be one for good.
“I’m looking forward to what the future of the science center holds, and I’m really hoping we find a rename that represents the achievements of diverse people,” Gross added.
Kelly Wallace is a second-year media and culture major with a minor in journalism. KW978394@wcupa.edu.