Chancellor Andrew Leavitt today announced a name change for the theatre space on the Oshkosh campus of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh to better reflect UWO’s commitment to inclusion and equity.
The former Fredric March Theatre, located at 1010 Algoma Blvd., has been renamed the Theatre Arts Center. UW Oshkosh’s award-winning theatre department typically stages four main productions in the 500-seat proscenium theatre each academic year.
In the early 1970s, UWO—then Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh—named the newly constructed theatre after actor Fredric March, a graduate of UW-Madison who earned international acclaim as an Academy Award-winning film actor.
Two years ago, the UW-Madison community advocated for the removal of March’s name from a small theatre and another space within the Memorial Union. This call for action came after it was revealed that March belonged to an inter-fraternity society known as the Ku Klux Klan while a student at UW-Madison in the 1920s.
“As UW-Madison investigated the matter, I also received a demand from UWO students and advocates to remove March’s name from the Oshkosh campus theatre,” Leavitt said.
In 2019, Leavitt asked Sylvia Carey Butler, former associate vice chancellor for Academic Support of Inclusive Excellence, to lead an effort to review UW-Madison’s findings and engage the UWO campus communities in conversation.
“We gathered additional background, hosted forums, listened to and surveyed students, collected feedback and considered next steps,” Leavitt said.
While there is no evidence that the UW-Madison group March belonged to was linked to the national movement of the Ku Klux Klan in its time, Leavitt said March’s earlier college inter-fraternal affiliation remains troubling.
“After the UW-Madison revelation, I heard shock and pain from UWO community members and stakeholders urging the administration to remove March’s name from the Oshkosh campus theatre,” Leavitt said. “I have since heard from additional students of color, colleagues, alumni and other advocates supporting that change. Letting the Oshkosh campus theatre’s name stand would also permanently overshadow and discount the educational and artistic virtuosity we work so hard to nurture within and beyond its walls.”