UB to remove names of Fillmore, Putnam and Porter

Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The University at Buffalo (UB) has decided to take the names of Millard Fillmore, James O. Putnam and Peter B. Porter from its buildings and a road.

UB says this decision aligns with its “efforts to recognize and dismantle systemic racism and create a welcoming environment.”

“Clearly, historical namings on our campus — whether academic buildings, residential halls, interior spaces or thoroughfares — carry important symbolic value,” President Satish K. Tripathi said during Monday’s UB Council meeting. “We want to ensure that these symbols align with our mission — namely, that we are a diverse, inclusive scholarly community.”

Fillmore, the 13th U.S. President, was one of the founders of the University at Buffalo, and he also served as the school’s first chancellor. UB says Fillmore “has been widely criticized for his support of The Compromise of 1850, which included the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.”

Putnam was a lawyer who served on the UB Council for 32 years. He was UB’s fourth chancellor. The school says that during his career, “he held and openly expressed racist views.”

Porter was a Buffalo resident who served in Congress, and was a previous Secretary of State. He owned five slaves.

While some names are being taken away, another will be added. Civil rights pioneer Mary Talbert will be honored with the renaming of Putnam Way, which will now be called Mary Talbert Way.

Talbert was a nurse during World War I who “dedicated herself to improving the lives of African Americans,” UB says. She was previously honored when the school opened Talbert Hall in 1977.

The other changes, listed below, were approved by UB’s Campus Planning Committee.

  • Millard Fillmore Academic Center, which houses academic departments, student residences and other services, and is part of the Ellicott Complex, will be known as Academic Center until a new name is determined.
  • The former Putnam’s Marketplace Eatery in the Student Union will be known as Union Marketplace & Eatery.
  • Porter Quadrangle, a residence hall that is part of the Ellicott Complex, will be renamed at a later date.

The changes will take effect on signage and the school’s website prior to August 31 — the start of the fall semester.

Evan Anstey is a digital content producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here.

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