Work Group to Address Concerns with Named Awards

It has come to the attention of the Board of Trustees that the University of Wisconsin–Madison has initiated a study group to research the history of two student organizations in the 1920s that may have been affiliated with the national Ku Klux Klan. One individual thought to be a member of one of the student organizations is Porter Butts, when he was an undergraduate at Wisconsin.

Butts is well recognized in the college union field for his writings in The College Union Idea, as director of the Wisconsin Union, and his involvement in ACUI. One of our most notable awards, the Butts-Whiting Award, includes his name. This information is greatly concerning, and we are glad, as noted in a press release, that UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank has asked for the study.

ACUI is committed to values that include diversity and integrity, and there is no place for racism in our association. To examine this issue, a working group will be created to look at the naming of ACUI awards and honors. The group will make recommendations to the Board of Trustees by March 2018 on the following:

  • Vetting process for potential individuals who would be honored by named awards or honors.
  • Recommended processes to examine issues or concerns raised about individuals named for established awards or honors.
  • Recommended actions following the study being conducted at the University of Wisconsin that involves Porter Butts.

Debra Hammond, ACUI past president and executive director of the University Student Union at California State University–Northridge, has agreed to co-chair the working group along with Thomas Lane, ACUI past president and associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Missouri State University. Individuals interested to serve on this working group may complete an interest form. It is anticipated that the work of this group and any related action by the board will be reported to the membership at the Annual Conference in March.

As a learning organization with a long history, ACUI cannot shy away from looking critically at our past and continuing to improve as we move forward. Thank you for your support as this working group looks at this important issue.

For more information, please contact Jeff Pelletier, president, or Dr. John Taylor, chief executive officer.


  • Elizabeth Beltramini

    Elizabeth Beltramini served as ACUI's director of content curation and chief diversity officer. She worked at ACUI for more than 20 years before leaving in 2022 to pursue new challenges. Upon her departure, Beltramini received ACUI's Honorary Membership and Presidential Award for Distinguished Services.

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