USG Senator is petitioning to change the name of the Von KleinSmid Center
The name is ‘painfully ironic’
USG Senator, Preston Fregia, created a petition to change the name of the Von KleinSmid Center after discovering that the building was named in honor of a prominent member of the eugenics movement.
The petition currently has nearly 500 signatures in support of the name change.
VKC, the center for International Relations and Political Science, was dedicated to Rufus Bernhard Von KleinSmid, the president of USC from 1921 to 1946. VonKleinsmid founded the international relations program at USC and drastically increased enrollment at the university during his tenure.
In return for his dedication to the university, one of the most iconic buildings on campus was named after him.
"I understand his importance to the university, but we can’t ignore other parts of his history," Fregia said. "He has a history with eugenics and racism. He co-founded the Human Betterment Foundation in Pasadena, CA, which promoted eugenics and influenced the Nazis' similar goal of sterilization."
Fregia, a political science major, first found out about Von KleinSmid's history with eugenics in class.
"It caught me by surprise," Fregia said. "It was weird that every day I was going to class in a building named after a man who wanted to weed me out."
The VKC building itself represents the diversity of the USC community with dozens of different countries' flags hanging to honor where our students hail from.
"It's painfully ironic that we have an International Relations school named after a leader of eugenics."
Last semester, a petition to remove Bryan Singer's name from the School of Cinematic Arts harbored well over 4,000 signatures after Singer was accused several times of pedophilia. In response, the university temporarily removed his name from the institution – at Singer's own accord.
Fregia believes these battles to disassociate offenders, like Von KleinSmid and Singer, from the university's history will make students aware of the problem at hand.
"This is more symbolic than anything; it gets the ball rolling," Fregia said. "It’s an uphill battle, and the more people that become conscious of it will give even more grit to our argument."
Fregia will present the resolution to the senate today, March 6, in TCC 350 at 7p.m. The 12 members of senate will then vote on the resolution the week following spring break. If passed, the motion to rename VKC will be given to the administration for review.
At this time, there is no proposed alternative name for the building.
"It would be arrogant on my part to propose another name," Fregia said. "But as a group, we should find another name. I’m just more concerned that 'VKC' is on the IR building."