Eugenics backer’s name may be dropped from college library

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The name of a former University of Vermont president may be removed from the library because of his support of research into eugenics that helped lead to sterilizations.

A panel of the UVM board of trustees advised the school Thursday to get rid of the name Bailey, for former president Guy Bailey, from the Bailey/Howe library in its final report Thursday in response to a faculty and student proposal to remove it. The full board is expected to vote on the issue next week.

“We further suggest, that the University work to establish a lasting educational effort with respect to the history of eugenics, UVM’s role in it, and its impacts on populations in Vermont and beyond,” the panel wrote.

In the 1930s, some Vermonters of mixed French Canadian and Native American heritage, as well as poor, rural whites, were placed on a state-sanctioned list of “mental defectives” and degenerates and sent to state institutions. Some had surgery after Vermont in 1931 became one of more than two dozen to pass a law that allowed for voluntary sterilizations for “human betterment” as part of the eugenics movement, which supported the selective reproduction of humans.

Bailey supported the Eugenics Survey of Vermont and its leader, Henry Perkins, a UVM professor of zoology, by raising substantial private funding for the survey and serving on its advisory committee, including when the survey and Perkins successfully pushed for passage the sterilization law, according to the committee.

During the time he led the school from 1920 until he died in 1940, enrollment grew and new buildings sprouted on campus, the renaming committee wrote. He also increased educational access to students, including women, and kept the school financially viable during the Great Depression, the panel wrote.

But trustees learned after he died that the university was nearly bankrupt and in debt, according to the committee. He was found to have used scholarship funds for expenses, to have made loans to friends, and to have inflated the value of the school property, the panel said.

The faculty and student proposal to remove his name focused on his support of the eugenics research, however.

“We understand that there are other contributions that Bailey made to the university and that Bailey will still be recognized as one of UVM’s presidents,” their proposal read. “Yet we believe given the record of his direct eugenics support, and the prominence of the undergraduate library to UVM students, faculty and staff, as well as to the larger surrounding communities, the honor of having the library named after him should now be denied.”

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