To: The Caltech Community
From: Thomas F. Rosenbaum, Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and Professor of Physics
Date: April 12, 2021
Re: Update on Caltech's Renaming Process
I write to update you on progress implementing the recommendations of the Committee on Naming and Recognition to remove from campus assets and honors the names of those associated with the eugenics movement.
Our actions fall into two classes: those where the naming of the asset or honor was a requirement of a gift to the Institute and those where it was not. In the former category, Caltech is pursuing the appropriate legal process afforded by California law to remove the naming requirement. This requires the Institute to seek a court order from a California state court. To this end, the Institute recently filed court petitions to remove names from the Robert A. Millikan Memorial Library and Fellowships, the Harry Chandler Dining Hall, the William Bennet Munro Memorial Lecture Series, and the Albert B. Ruddock Professorships. At the same time and to the extent possible, we have been in contact with known descendants of the donors.
While the Institute's goal is to remove these names as soon as possible, the legal process is subject to a schedule that is determined by the court and may be subject to delays resulting from the pandemic. If the court grants the petitions and issues orders allowing the Institute to remove the naming restrictions, this will open the way for the Board of Trustees to rename the affected campus assets and honors.
Caltech also is working diligently through a process to rename assets for which there are no naming restrictions. This includes Ruddock House. Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Residential Experience Felicia Hunt and Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations Ralph Amos have constituted a committee that includes current Ruddock House student leaders and members of the Caltech Alumni Association, as well as other members of the campus community. The committee plans to survey all Ruddock House students and alumni to solicit their input. The goal is for the committee to have a recommendation for a new name for Ruddock House in the next few months, which will then be brought to the Board of Trustees for approval. Once a new name is approved, the Institute will work with donors to rename applicable Ruddock House endowments.
The Board of Trustees additionally will consider recommendations for the renaming of the Linde + Robinson Laboratory, the Robert Andrews Millikan Professorship, and the Millikan Medal, assets that are not bound by gift or other legal obligations. Where there are unrestricted divisional assets identified by the Committee on Naming and Recognition, those have been or will be renamed by the divisions.
These changes are a significant statement about Caltech's future, and we want to be sure to handle them in a thoughtful, inclusive, and lawful manner. We will keep you apprised of developments.