Over the course of the 2020 calendar year, the Office of the President received requests to review the honorific naming of Fielding H. Yost on Yost Ice Arena. Pursuant to the published process for historical name reviews on university buildings, the President’s Advisory Committee on University History has reviewed the matter and conveyed to President Mark S. Schlissel a preliminary recommendation to remove the name.
As the review process provides that in certain instances, “where relevant and after appropriate consultation with the President, a broader, community outreach may be invited,” the President’s Advisory Committee on University History is inviting interested U-M community members to submit feedback through June 7, 2021 on the Committee’s Preliminary Summary Recommendation and Historical Analysis. Each feedback submission will be reviewed and an overall summary of the community feedback will be shared with the president as part of the Committee’s final recommendation.
The U-M community (students, faculty, staff, and alumni) is invited to leave feedback, which will be published on this page, via the form below. Anyone who wishes to submit feedback for consideration, but does not want their submission to be published online, may do so via email or U.S. mail.
Anonymous feedback submissions are not permitted.
Documents for Public Feedback
Report on the Fielding H. Yost Name on the Yost Ice Arena: Preliminary Summary Recommendation
Report on the Fielding H. Yost Name on the Yost Ice Arena: Historical Analysis
As a white male, a building named after Yost does not offend me. However, I can see how it has the potential to make other people, especially those of color, feel undervalued and persecuted. Therefore if it helps bring unity to students and alumni and promote the general betterment of humanity I am 100% behind it.
However, if you chose to rename it, could there perhaps be a section in the stadium where we explain why? As a way to remember history and prevent repeating it? An area where we explain Yost’s contributions to the school and athletics but also condemn his racist viewpoint in a modern society?
I do not believe the Yost name should be removed
I do not think the Yost Ice Hockey Arena should be renamed. It is being brought to light after a year of turmoil about racism and DEI efforts. However, as a institution that prides itself on academic excellence we must recognize the context in which Yost was a member of the UM community. A time where, unfortunately, racism was normal. I’m sure to many people in our community, Yost is associated with the hockey team that we all admire and love and not with the complicated period of history in which he was involved with UM. Yost obviously made an impact on the UM community in order to have such a building named after him. We must keep the name of the building in order to recognize the racism that existed (and move forward) but also honor the great legacy and impact that he made on our school.
I appreciate the effort and care that the President’s Advisory Committee on University History did on this matter. As a history teacher and a Michigan alumnus, struggling with our past is something that is never easy. One of the gauges one must use in examining the past is “was this person appreciably worse about this modern concern than the average person of his or her era.” This is especially important on matters of race. Most people historically would not meet a modern standard of acceptable behavior when it comes to race, but the difference is, in my mind at least, was this person notably more racist than the standards of the day.
As much as I appreciate the contributions of Fielding Yost to the history of Michigan athletics, as both football coach and athletic administrator, as much as his name being attached to the Field House was recognition of his efforts to build this first of its kind facility, it is perhaps time, in reflection of broader thinking, more inclusive thinking, to retire the name. Even in considering “the whole man”, there is no reason why Michigan cannot move on from this name in this era.
I do have one concern: The renaming process leaves the immediate question of “what shall the new name be?” and there are some obvious choices in the minds of many Michigan fans, alumni, and supporters. But it is also clear that naming buildings for people and building statues to them come with the cost of those people being perpetually judged against modern standards. It may be better to move forward with a name that does not reflect an individual, simply to prevent another such advisory committee from needing to be formed 25-50-100 years hence.
I thank you for your time.
This is ridiculous and I am not in favor of removing someone’s name from a building based on some deep dive into their personal life that might not agree with the societal norms of today’s world. If this happens – I will stop funding and supporting my university and I will drop my season tickets to all sports and move forward with life.
Leave it as is. The problems with Yost are well known, but also not out of line for what the world was like 100 years ago. Add a plaque or something giving full context, but no need to change the name.
Taubman’s name is all over campus and he’s a convicted felon.
Let’s chill out a bit here
Yes, agree, please remove his name. We have got to stand for the values of humanity and make corrections where we have historically faltered. And we have faltered. Remove the Yost name.
I understand the concerns raised by the committee which are valid. However I don’t believe everything should be looked at through today’s prism. I get very concerned when certain institutions and governmental units feel compelled to remove even the names of Washington and Lincoln from buildings and monuments. If you look hard enough I doubt that you could put anyone’s name on anything. Even Martin Luther King had his faults but he was still a great man who should be honored. Let’s just celebrate the good things that Mr. Yost did for Michigan football while still acknowledging that he was human and had his short comings. I would be very sad if we now focus on his racist sentiments and ignore the fact that he had a big part in making the University of Michigan football what it is today.
I concur with the committee’s recommendation to remove Fielding H Yost’s name from the Ice Arena.
I would recommend that the building be renamed the Red Berenson Ice Arena. Not only was Red Berenson the longest tenured and most successful ice hockey coach at Michigan but he is also an Alumnus. He was and still is an individual of the highest character. He is the epitome of what I feel is a true “ Michigan Man”
I do not think Yost Arena should be renamed. I do not think that the Yost name should be explained or denigrated by the University 100 years after the man’s contributions and mistakes were made. I think this entire process in a waste of resources, both human and financial.
I do not support the removal of Yost’s name. Thank you.
I do not believe that the name should be changed. Yes, Yost was a racist as were many during his lifetime. If we are to judge those who have passed on before us, may we never be judged by those who follow us. Every man and woman has faults and those faults are easily magnified when applying today’s standards against historical figures. F.H. Yost was a great Michigan man who loved the University of Michigan and everything that it stood for. I too love the University of Michigan and have done my level best to support the University since my graduation in 1978. However, should this misguided idea come to pass, there will be no more money today or in the future going to the University. That will sadden me but I will feel satisfied that I have done the right thing and held my ground against the problem de jour.
While the current cultural zeitgeist is to engage in a non-stop session of self-flagellation over historical perceived wrongs, I think the wider University community has already identified and engaged in enough self-reflection over Yost’s historical record. He is both a person who pushed the University to achieve the greatness in our athletic enterprise that we currently enjoy, and also has unsavory characteristics associated with his personal character that has been recognized in the public realm. His story is widely known and acknowledged for strengths and faults. I would hope the University would be mature enough to accept the accomplishments and note the historical pitfalls of Yost’s character without resorting to historical punishments. Being grounded in our tradition and understanding our background has been a hallmark of the University of Michigan experience– I hope that rationality isn’t lost in an attempt to placate the mob mentality taking root in academia and popular culture. It is not a bad thing to have a building named after a historical figure who contributed a tremendous amount to the university’s build-up, but who also had unsavory personal beliefs that are not in line with contemporary morals. Instead of using this as an opportunity to tear down history, it could be used as an opportunity to teach about the greater context of Yost’s life and how it impacted the University.
Where does this end? Fielding Yost today, who tomorrow? If you don’t believe it, check out how quickly the target in other places has gone from Confederate leaders to Abraham Lincoln, the Founding Fathers, etc. This is what they do in Communist countries (and Nazi Germany) – they start with small, seemingly innocuous things and then they keep going. Maybe that’s what the committee members aspire to?
This is a ridiculous suggestion. If we are to judge all of history by today’s norms, nothing will stand. And the legacies of today’s “heroes” will just become fodder for the next generation’s whims.
This is absurd and I am against changing the name of the arena. Human history is filled with many individuals that were severely flawed human beings, but certainly did make major contributions to our society. The advancements made by Yost to Michigan athletics is quite clear and certainly deserved. This is not a person that devoted themselves to a life of propagating racism and was simply a product of the era in which they lived. We need to draw clear lines between individuals like this and those who actively supported and propagated racist views.
What purpose is served by erasing his name from history like this? Instead of changing the name of the arena, how about adding information and a showcase at the arena that describes the troubled history and illustrates the vast changes and improvements the university has made over the past 90 years to become so wonderfully diverse and inclusive. As a body of scholarship, the university should not erase and omit uncomfortable history but rather take the opportunity to learn from it so the next generation can learn from our previous mistakes and shortcomings.
I haven’t formed an opinion on whether Yost’s name should be removed. However, if we choose to remove Yost’s name, where do we stop? There are far bigger names than Yost’s assigned to things with far more visibility than an ice arena. And these others committed far greater race crimes. George Washington owned slaves. Better rename Washington state and Washington D.C. Jefferson owned slaves and impregnated at least one. Better rename the countless cities, counties, colleges, etc. with his name. Amerigo Vespucci was part of “a brief slave raid in the Bahamas, capturing 232 natives, and then returned to Spain.” (per Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amerigo_Vespucci#Voyage_of_1499%E2%80%931500). Better rename the United States of America (derived from “Amerigo”). In short, how do we, as a civilization, pick and choose what needs to be renamed?
I disagree with removing the Yost name. Very few people in history will survive the test of time if they are judged through modern sensibilities. This is true for people 100 years ago, as it will be for people 100 years hence. Our history is our history, whether we speak it or not. At least if we speak it, it opens the possibility for understanding its nuances and discussing them.
I do NOT agree with changing the name of Yost Ice Arena. While I do not agree with Yost’s stance on race, I think we need to keep in mind the context that he did not live in today’s standards. He lived in the standards of his time. His achievements in hockey were what led to naming the Ice Arena, not his stance on race. When I attend games at Yost, I am thinking about hockey and UofM fans coming together as a whole, regardless of race, gender, religious beliefs, political ideals or other. Let’s keep it that way. The Yost name now represents an intimidating place to play hockey. There is no need to try to rebrand that now. If the committee decides to change the name, that would be a shame. While I do like the notion of naming it after Red Berenson as an alternative, keep in mind that he was not perfect either. None of us are. The focus should be on striving for racial equality today, and renaming an ice arena is NOT going to get us there. What will get us there is a better understanding of all human beings and treating each other as equals – with respect and generosity.
I support the recommendation to remove the Yost name from the University of Michigan’s ice arena. It is true that Fielding Yost made significant contributions to Michigan athletics and it may be true that his views and behavior were typical for the time in which he lived. Yet, Yost’s Michigan career ended 80 years ago and his name will be indelibly etched in Michigan athletic history regardless of this move. We can move on from using his name on a building without dishonoring the positive aspects of his legacy. At the same time, it is crucially important that we recognize the pain it can cause for Michigan students, faculty, staff, and our neighbors – in Ann Arbor and across the world – to have this name emblazoned on a high-profile facility and repeated in national broadcasts as a continuing endorsement and celebration of this man. Fielding Yost will not lose his place in the history books, but as a University of Michigan community we owe it to ourselves – and the most vulnerable among us – to put the safety and well-being of our present and future community ahead of celebrating the legacy of a man who held abhorrent views and committed shameful acts, even though he was a great football coach. I write as an alumnus who spent 8 years on campus earning 3 Michigan degrees and was raised in a family with a multi-generation Michigan legacy to “bleed Maize and Blue” so I do not take University history and traditions, and particularly those associated with athletics, lightly.
As a University of Michigan alumni (’11, ’12) I appreciate the Board of Regents care they are taking in addressing the matter of the naming of Yost Ice Arena. As a white male I struggle all the time I reconciling my nation’s history in relation to those of historically marginalized populations. I firmly believe in addressing the issue at hand of the continuation of the naming of the ice arena for Fielding Yost, the board should take a holistic and inclusive review. We most address does Fielding Yost’s accomplishments stand in relation to his racist and bigoted actions at the time. Secondly, the most also review does Yost’s actions stand out as overly racist and bigoted in terms of the perceived attitudes of his time. Removing his name does not erase his contributions to the University. Nor does removing his name remove Yost from our history. Removing his name sends a message that the University of Michigan is inclusive for all races and backgrounds. I believe Fielding Yost’s namesake should be removed from the University of Michigan Ice Arena. Thank you for your time.
I oppose the removal of Fielding Yost’s name from the arena on the simple basis that, as I do not want to be judged on the merits of my worst mistakes, neither should I evaluate others on being no more than their worst mistakes. I support a plaque or education campaign explaining why Yost’s actions were wrong, but we did not name the arena to celebrate his very racist views; we named it to commemorate the very enormous good he has done for the university in athletics (including being a proponent for women’s sports and inclusion) and education.
I am not in favor of erasing aspics of History just because they do not jibe with current norms. From what I can tell of his bio, he reflected the societal norms of his time and geography, with the notable exception of his embrace of Jewish players. We have convicted felon Taubman all over the place as well as trump supporter Ross. Maybe a chill is in order.
I do not support removing Yost’s name. We need to stop judging historical figures against modern social standards.
Yost’s name should be removed. Seeing as there were many people during the time he was alive who were not racists, and his benching of Ward seems to be rooted in racial animus, a name change seems warranted. Let’s make sure whoever we name the arena after did not use the Pinkertons to investigate students and get them expelled.
I oppose the removal of Fielding Yost’s name from facilities at the University of Michigan. I find it very troubling to condemn behavior from 1920 using 2020 morality, unless the individual’s behavior is uniquely invidious for its time. I find Yost’s behavior to be well within the norm of his era’s colleagues in university athletics in the North and East of the USA. To assess his character based on his failure to integrate his varsity team, decades before Jackie Robinson became the first Black to play major league baseball, lacks the historical and social perspective I expect from a learned institution like the University of Michigan. In many similar movements around the country it is a small, but very vocal minority of shareholders that are pushing to remove historical names. I believe the removal of Yost’s name will prove to be a divisive move that will drive more alumni from their allegiance and support of U-M. It would be better to put learning kiosks on campus to put Yost’s life in its proper perspective and to educate us all about how we can be better at eliminating racial bias today.
I oppose the removal of Fielding H. Yost’s name from the ice arena.
As a University of Michigan Athletics alumna, I wholeheartedly support the recommendation to remove Fielding Yost’s name from the University of Michigan Ice Arena, and all efforts to acknowledge the impact Yost’s choices had on undermining the aspirations set forth by the Regents in 1870, including the decision to bench Willis Ward and the widespread exclusion of Black athletes under his tenure.
I do not support removing Mr Yost’s name from Yost arena. It is inappropriate to judge a man’s actions fifty or one hundred years ago using today’s standards. I believe there was appropriate due diligence performed by the University at the time the building was dedicated, based on the norms and historical context of the times. If the University is going to start this practice then I suggest you stop naming buildings after people because who will stand the test of time in every action of their life 100 years later?
While I support creating a community that is welcoming and respectful of all, I was dismayed that the committee’s report appeared incomplete. There is evidence that over the course of his career, Yost challenged his own personal views, and grew: not just by merely being accepting and tolerant of others – but actually actively defending their interests. I would have hoped this report would have considered those examples as a counterargument and provided analysis to define Yost’s full being. If those events that demonstrated ‘growth’ prove accurate and reliable, then I think the best opportunity here is to highlight his willingness to challenge his own views and grow as a person. After all, that is what we want all Americans to do today – reflect inward and grow. A display inside Yost Ice Arena or somewhere on campus documenting his journey would convey this story in a way that hopefully could be inspirational to all.
It’s a tricky thing. I don’t believe in papering over what happened in history to hide it for all time. Yost was a complex figure. Definitely started out as racist, though how much for his background and the time is up for debate. But he’s also a figure who evolved over time and show that people can change. Do we remove him for his worst acts, and hide our history, or do we use him as an example of change and note that he did things that were wrong, then and now, but showed that people can become better? Do we keep things the same and add notations of what the times were and what was not up to our current standards, or just erase it and try and pretend it never happened? My worry is maybe this isn’t the place to draw such a line, but where is that line drawn? Because people in the past will never live up to our current standards, and we won’t be good examples of what the standards of the future will be. Everything needs to be judged it its own time. The easy answer is to stop naming building after people and building statues for men and women because they’re mortal and failable and the people we honor today or use to replace those of old will need to be replaced when we don’t stand up to future generations standards. But I don’t think the University is ready to stop accept money for naming rights. And what’s worse, a southern white man from a century ago who was racist, or buildings named after currently convicted felons? To me it’s too all or nothing, and if everything isn’t going to be named “The Michigan Union” or “Michigan Stadium” it’s the better role for a University to educate people on the past, warts and all, than to forget history. Because that has not traditionally worked out so well for societies.
The President’s Advisory Committee on University History has done a thorough and thoughtful analysis of the question. As someone who has spent many hours in the Yost Fieldhouse, I was unaware of this part of our history. It is always difficult and often painful to critique and criticize ourselves as individuals or as institutions. It is, however, precisely this process that makes us better. By understanding our past and changing the present, we maximize our future. I, therefore, fully support the Committee’s recommendation to remove the Yost name.
I am a member of the Class of 1998 (BA – History). Reckoning with the past is hard but necessary. I appreciate the University’s efforts to examine the legacy of Fielding Yost, and I understand why Yost Ice Arena must be renamed. I had hockey season tickets each year at UM (94-95 through 97-98). The team made the Frozen Four all four years, and won two NCAA titles during that time. Why not rename the arena after the man who is not only one of the greatest coaches in UM and NCAA history, but also one of the greatest players in UM history: Gordon “Red” Berenson? Red IS Michigan hockey. We will always have great memories of Yost, but why not update the name by associating it with the sport that’s played there? Again, I appreciate the University’s efforts, and I am grateful for the opportunity to give my feedback.
Go Blue, always!
BA History, 1998
All in all, I struggle and am of mixed emotions as I read through both the summary and the comments above. I can definitely say that as a student I enjoyed many, many nights in Yost Ice Arena cheering on my beloved cagers. Yost’s teams mark a truly strong period in Michigan football, and his innovation in playmaking evolved the game. When I first saw this initiative, I was very resistant given my love for Michigan Athletics, its history, and my struggle with cancel culture
However, while I do agree that looking back on life from decades ago in today’s light is both dangerous and can be very unfair, in this case it appears that the specific situation of Yost’s actions with regard to race actually occurred at a time when things were beginning to evolve, not yet to equality but at least to begin down that road. Instead of being a revolutionary off the field — as he certainly was on the football field, to his credit — and looking toward justice and fairness, his actions didn’t demonstrate the same fervor for social progress as for football. I imagine a very different world in 2021 if leaders like Yost chose to champion racial equality in those days, because he was in a position to affect so many.
Fielding Yost was an incredible football coach. His legacy in football, however, cannot and should not be celebrated without the context of his unfortunate and consistent actions against the plight of non-whites. If we are going to move forward as a society, I believe it will take us really accepting some very difficult facts about our past rather than romanticizing just the good.
With this in mind, I will say the same as I did about Bo Schembechler and the terrible injustice perpetrated by Dr. Anderson — that first and foremost, those that were or would have been most keenly affected by Yost’s actions should really be those whose opinions matter the most here. If their voices are represented by the committee’s recommendation, then I support the recommendation.
John Timothy Harrington
I’m glad the school has brought this history to light. I was not aware of it. However, I’m concerned that there is no reasonable, articulable principle at work here. The Willis Ward story should have a prominent place on Yost’s wikipedia page, any plaque memorializing his contributions to the school, etc. But to erase Yost from history because he was not an anti-racist activist seems strange when such a thing didn’t exist at the time. Why should we *expect* a person whose job it was to win sporting contests to be a civil rights activist? Today, to be an anti-racist activist takes no courage or risk, as it is the zeitgeist to be anti-racist–it is the default. In 1934 it was precisely the opposite–it would not have been on Yost’s radar. People should be judged in historical context. Yost was born less than a decade after the Emancipation Proclamation. The game in question took place 30 years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 13 years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB. Hitler had founded the Dachau concentration camp the year before and was consolidating power. It was a different time. To expect Yost to have behaved as we would want an AD to behave in 2021 is unreasonable. He reported to President Ruthven, who reported to the regents, who report to the voters. Who else must bear the blame here? Will we ensure Ruthven and the regents from 1934 are all erased from history as well? Do the voting-age citizens of Michigan from 1934 have to pay a price as well? Where does it end? Should we erase all the coaches and ADs to date because players haven’t been paid or able to benefit from their NIL rights? The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island excluded Blacks and Jews. I am of Jewish descent, but I won’t boycott the hotel or expect them to change their name. I will tell my kids about the history though. Similarly, I will buy a Ford despite Henry Ford’s anti-semitism and racism (even though they’re still called “Ford”). Some suggest Yost’s contributions to the school are unimportant because “it’s just a game.” Well, the game against Georgia Tech was “just a game” too. Gerald Ford did the right thing, and we should be proud of that. But should we judge Yost against the current zeitgeist? We should celebrate that Willis was on the team at all! If we hold historical figures to the standards of today, our parents and grandparents must be erased as well. This critical theory approach to history lacks principle, reason, and limits. I oppose changing the name and support adding a large plaque of the history. By the way, I take the exact same position on Schembechler Hall and look forward to seeing the school’s response to the WilmerHale report on sexual abuse that occurred on his watch. The “injury” to Willis Ward was that he didn’t get what would have been special treatment in 1934 (i.e., being benched was the expectation at that time, unfortunately). Dr. Anderson, by contrast, sexually abused hundreds of boys over decades.
I do not support the removal of Fielding Yost’s name from the ice arena. As other’s have already commented, we cannot with any clear understanding and good conscious try to evaluate Yost’s beliefs and actions from 100 years ago by today’s standards and views. Had this been a case of an University person who worked through the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and/or 90’s that had publicly and knowingly portrayed racists actions and behaviors, this would a different discussion and easy decision. I serious doubt any of us in a 100+ years will likely pass such conversions or tests based on the beliefs, opinion and standards in a new future in a gestalt review of our lives today.
I do not support changing the name. We celebrate the contribution Yost had as a coach and athletic director at the university. I don’t feel this should be overshadowed by a committee that just now has discovered racial issues in his past that are not generally present in today’s society. I won’t pretend to know what the racial divide was during his time but I can safely assume that how he was raised and the beliefs he held as the son of a confederate general were congruent with peers in his day. Will the president who hired Yost also be banished from the University records? Will his wins as a coach be vacated? All these questions can be debated but there is no question or debate that he made great contributions to the University athletic department.
When we name a building, we often look to the past. But a name is about more than those who came before us; a name signifies who we are today, and who we hope to be tomorrow. By today’s standards, Fielding Yost was racist. His actions and inactions were racist by the standards of his time too, when others recognized them as wrong. And unless new information emerges that was inaccessible to all of us today, his actions and inactions will be recognized as racist in the future.
Naming a building is decision made in a particular moment in time. Keeping a building name is a decision made passively over and over again. But times change. Our community values change. Learning and growth are not static, and who we choose to honor — and continue to choose to honor— shouldn’t be static either. Building names can look to our past but shouldn’t shouldn’t be detrimental to our present nor limit our future. Fielding Yost’s name no longer reflects the full University community. It never did, and it’s past time the University acknowledges that by removing Fielding Yost’s name from Yost Ice Arena.
I oppose the renaming Yost Ice Arena.
One of the best aspects of the University of Michigan is its history and tradition. Of course, as time passes, the lens through which we view historical events changes and modern perspectives are very different than that of prior generations.
Today’s cancel culture would have us forget the past, lobotomizing our collective minds of any history that by today’s standards is considered unjust. Is it better to “sanitize” our history or remember it in full, both glorious and ugly? Is it better to erase the past or present a balance view of what happend?
I would far rather see us create a balanced view of history by erecting something in the memory of Willis Ward, one that provides a different perspective on the discussion. Wouldn’t it be better for our children to see both aspects of this history than to simply erase all those names from our heritage?
I strongly object to, and I am very upset by, the recommendation to remove Mr. Yost’s name from the Yost Ice Arena. If it is removed, I unfortunately must decide to terminate my financial and other support for the University of Michigan, its Law School and the University of Michigan Department of Athletics.
The name Yost is indelibly associated with Michigan’s unsurpassed history of both great academic excellence and athletic accomplishment. Yost, like all of us, was indeed a flawed human being. One who made bad decisions. And one who died while it was still legal to segregate black children from white in our public schools, still legal to deprive blacks of voting rights, still legal to exclude blacks from owning homes in certain areas of town or from getting loans to buy those homes. Who among us or our ancestors of Mr. Yost’s time, upon any serious examination, is not equally or even more flawed than Mr. Yost, and yet lacking comparable contribution to the University of Michigan? It also cannot seriously be debated that he was the father of an athletics department that brings many alumni from around the world celebrate for its great accomplishments every year. Without Yost, it can be debated whether Michigan ever achieves such great success in athletics.
None of the above makes Mr. Yost’s actions right regarding Mr. Ward or black athletes generally. Nothing can change it today. But condemning the Yost name and removing it from display on a Michigan athletics facility he helped create because of these mistakes, without also acknowledging that Yost gave far more to the University of Michigan than than vast majority of others associated with Michigan athletics is also wrong. And two wrongs won’t right this situation.
Leaving the Yost name on the building does not equal support for racism or racist actions. I am white. My nephew, who is a University of Michigan alumnus, class of 2009, is black. As are several of my family members. I have acute sensitivity to these issues. I condemn racism now, and then as fundamentally abhorrent and immoral. But taking the Yost name off the building doesn’t change what occurred or alter any truth.
I support embracing our past to create our future. And like everyone’s past, it includes mistakes. Mistakes we can use to build a better school and community.
I would support the construction of a monument inside Yost arena (or, if better situated, inside the football facility) to Mr. Willis Ward, honoring his place at the University of Michigan, his significance furthering the moral excellence in which we believe, and explaining why we today condemn the actions Mr Yost took, and failed to take, relating to Mr Ward and other black men excluded from athletics during Mr. Yost’s time as coach and athletics director.
The Yost name, and the Ward name. Side by side. I would also consider changing the name of the Yost arena to “The Fielding Yost and Willis Ward Ice Arena.”
I will pledge the first donation for such a monument or make a donation in honor of such a name change. If you seriously want to use Mr. Yost’s mistakes to form a better future at Michigan, you don’t get rid of his name. You acknowledge his achievements while using his mistakes to teach and build. Use this opportunity to provide a fuller understanding of what occurred, and why acknowledging it and learning from it is important to our culture and our students, athletes and alumni.
I say we let Mr. Ward’s statue, or his name, or both, stand with Mr. Yost’s name, both there for all to see, with a full explanation of what our historians have learned, for all to read and contemplate. Teach. Build. Learn. Do not eliminate or shame.
University of Michigan Law School 1990.
I support the removal of Fielding Yost’s name from the ice arena but I have questions about the motivation. On one hand, it seems logical to do so. He was the son of a Confederate soldier and he was instrumental in the decision to bench Willis Ward against Georgia Tech in 1934. Simply being the son of a Confederate should not disqualify one’s contributions to society, but there is evidence of him embracing segregation in the football program for many years and the benching of Willis Ward is a great stain on this university’s history. On the other hand, the announcement that his name is under consideration for removal seems completely out of the blue. There have been so many other high-profile names dominating discussions for removal or disengagement in the community (Angell, Canham, Schembechler, and Weiser) that it seems strange Yost is the first one up for debate. I graduated fairly recently in 2018 and try to stay in touch with what’s happening on campus and I can’t say recall any serious conversations about Yost. This sudden announcement makes me skeptical.
In general, if the ice arena will be renamed, it needs to be acknowledged why it is happening and Michigan needs to address many of the systemic issues that persist at the university to this day (not only in regards to race, but to gender, socio-economic disparity, sexual assault, etc.). I fear re-naming Yost Ice Arena will shield the university from any responsibility of its past and present actions. Aside from Yost, the athletic department and school administration were both complicit in Ward’s benching and that reflects poorly on Michigan’s morals at the time. The story is solely embraced by the community due to the relationship between Gerald Ford and Ward, but it’s irresponsible for the University to not acknowledge its role in creating a hostile environment for non-white students.
As far as renaming the building goes, I agree with another’s comment that doing so should take into consideration that if it is named after an individual, they will be “perpetually judged against modern standards”. A popular pick for renaming is Red Berenson. While I think he is a solid choice due to his contributions to the university and its hockey program, his affiliation with Michigauma will come under scrutiny at some point, especially with the recent dissolvement of the Order of Angell. If it has to be named after an individual, it should be in honor of Willis Ward or Cazzie Russell.
I support a name change so long as the intentions are pure and the university will take serious efforts to address systemic issues on campus.
An institution as historical as the University of Michigan should understand that history is not a subtractive study; it is only additive. Of course, history is made better through modern interpretations and qualifications of contemporary accounts, biases, and understandings. But to scrub, alter, or reject an aspect or figure of history is to deny the future an understanding of the past, merely for the convenience of the present. Historical revisionism does nothing to mitigate the wrongs of the past. If nothing else, it hides them. The practice invites a willful ignorance that will inevitably result in a repetition of certain attitudes – no matter how shameful – in the future.
Therefore, in the manner regarding Fielding Yost, it is incredibly demeaning, unfair, and dishonest to negate the man’s plethora of achievements as a result of some seemingly vindictive, opportunistic push to seek out his moral failures and personal wrongs. No matter how well-intentioned, the effort to shun him and scrub his name from such a prominent place is a glaring disservice to the good brought about by his actions. Michigan Athletics would not be at its level of renown without Fielding Yost. Has this university become so detached from its achievements, so uncomfortable with its successes that it must retroactively punish its founding members? How does an institution honor its history and tradition by erasing the people who made it happen?
Removing Yost’s name will inevitably set in motion a pattern of cancellation. Are the names “Stephen Ross” or “Alfred Taubman” next to be stripped from the university’s buildings? What evil deeds will Bo Schembechler be found to have committed? Does Michigan pride itself on making known the obscure faults of its benefactors and champions, and whitewashing their achievement for the sake of fleeting, superficial virtue? Honoring a person includes acknowledging their errors along with their achievements. A university will not learn from its past by erasing all unsavory aspects of it.
But if the University of Michigan does, in fact, believe in such a destructive mission, and remains enamored with the emotional, subtractive spirit of the times, then they will not see any donations or promotion from me or dozens of my friends, family, and peers at any time in the coming future.
Do not remove Fielding Yost’s name from the arena.
I believe we do not need to disgrace Yost by removing his name from the arena.
Yost, by the way, brought the winged football helmet to Michigan. Should we eliminate that as well?
Yost’s massively negligent interaction with racism 100% needs to be reckoned with, and I am thankful the university has raised this uncomfortable conversation for all of us – as overdue as it may be.
When it comes to the prospect of renaming buildings specifically, two questions immediately need to be addressed: why the building was named after the figure in the first place, and how the raised character flaws impact that understanding. The ice arena was originally built as a “field house” in 1923 (far ahead of its time), and in the context of Fielding Yost’s athletic-directing career (building up to the construction of Michigan Stadium), was named for him in acknowledgement of his advancement of athletics at the University and the collegiate world at-large. Personally, I don’t believe that his racism undermines THAT legacy. It definitely undermines any positive understanding of Yost personally, which needs to be acknowledged in an appropriate, non-performative way – my opinion is that renaming Yost Ice Arena doesn’t fit that bill.
I hesitate to raise the name in an effort not to stray into a conversation for another day, but there is a specific contrast that should be noted here: I believe that continuing to honor Bo Schembechler will be a much tougher topic in part because of that exact interaction between legacy and character flaw. Schembechler has always been held up (including by statues and building names) as an outspoken archetype for integrity beyond athletics, and recent findings not only directly undermine that understanding, but the very standards he set in his own words. I am in no way placing a value judgement on one’s figures dark spot over the other (please, let’s never do that), I just feel the need to acknowledge that these two different problematic flaws intersect with these two different legacies in two very different ways, and that has to be reflected in whatever courses of action the university chooses.
Mary Ann Whipple
I oppose renaming Yost Arena. Everybody has held views that are a problem for somebody, particularly in light of history. I sure wish we had a common understanding, historically and now, of right and wrong, good and evil. We most emphatically do not. Now, we have the benefit of new means and opportunities and important reasons and imperatives to exchange information and dialogue and understand the points of view of other people who previously lacked a voice and power or were under- or un-represented in the University and other communities. For crying out loud, when my dad was Daily sports editor in the fifties, women were not allowed in the Michigan Stadium press box. My dad had to fight with Bennie Oosterban to allow a woman on the Daily editorial staff to sit in the press box, because each member of the editorial staff was allowed to sit there for one game. My uneducated guess is that people of color were not allowed there either. I don’t know. Women weren’t allowed in the Marching Band until what, the seventies? Tell the history and stories about people that built the University and what it was like honestly and forthrightly. I sure wish my beloved UM had never been plagued with racists and misogynists and awful policies that sometimes came with them. Ever. But let’s not pretend that by getting their names off buildings and spaces we can wash our hands of unsavory parts of UM’s history. Let’s not create the fiction that UM was never the University of Alabama. We may share more in common with that institution, except for a championship -level football team in this century, than anybody cares to admit. Let’s not pretend that certain events and people, including Fielding H. Yost, never happened in Ann Arbor, and that we’re all so much more enlightened now. Here’s a news flash. We’re probably not. Instead, seize an opportunity to educate people about the person and times. Put a plaque in the arena and information on the website explaining who Fielding H. Yost was, what he did or didn’t do and concerns raised about him. Highlight the Willis Ward story. Like it or not, Yost was a historical figure at the University. His decision in that matter is sad and awful. Instead, why doesn’t the University name something in honor of Willis Ward? Use that to explain the people and times that allowed him to be treated grossly unfairly, when it appears that only one man, one honorable man, stuck up for him at UM. I know. It sure as hell wasn’t Fielding H. Yost, who had the opportunity to do so, and refused. (And by the way, I don’t think it should be Yost Arena, however tempting that might be.) How about the Willis Ward and Gerald R. Ford Field at Michigan Stadium? That is, before it becomes Insurance Company Field at Michigan Stadium. Practically speaking from the hockey perspective, if somebody makes the change, it will always be Yost Arena. The Children of Yost will be the Children of Yost for the foreseeable future. They will continue unfurling the Yost photo flag in the stands, and do so more aggressively and profanely. Then the University will have lost an opportunity to educate and move forward more humanely and thoughtfully instead of wishing it away. Is every building and space at the University going to be renamed for the perceived-to-be A-OK-at-the-time donor (which might exclude buildings and spaces named after a particular regent at this point) or corporation that comes up with the most $$$? Or will they all just be generic Michigan Ice Arena. Michigan Basketball Arena. Michigan Formerly All Women’s Dorm on the Hill. Michigan Chemistry Hall. Maybe that’s OK. It sure works for the football stadium and MLB and the Union. But if that’s where we’re headed, do it across the board. No exceptions. No matter how much money it costs. In conclusion, thanks for asking. I hope the ask was sincere.
I will admit that I am torn by this. I have many good memories as a student and alumnus of visiting Yost ice arena, and I regale in stories of Yost’s greatness as a coach and athletic director. His influence on Michigan cannot be understated, as he’s very much the godfather of the athletic department as a whole. It would be impossible to separate Yost’s legacy from Michigan, and renaming a building won’t change that.
However, I’d like to make things clear – Fielding Yost’s racism is and was appalling, and had no place at the University of Michigan at any point in time. To memorialize a person by naming one of Michigan’s beloved buildings after them, after they denied a Michigan student an opportunity based on their race stands in contrast to the values the University stands for. Especially when there are so many others that live Michigan’s values that we can bestow this honor upon (for example, Red Berenson).
Let’s put a deserving honoree’s name on the building the Maize and Blue skate in.
BBA ’10, MAcc ’11
As an alumnus of the University of Michigan, as well as a parent of two Alumnae, I am opposed to changing the name of Yost Arena.
This is just another example of changes either implemented or proposed by President Schlissel and/or the Board of Regents to make changes which in no way help to build and maintain the academic excellence the University has been known with.
As a recent graduate and member of the Children of Yost for the last 4 years, I seriously believe that we should remove Fielding Yost’s name from the building (and the student section). We should try not to hype up/honor people (especially those who were in power) who were historically bigoted, even if “they did a lot for this university and the athletic department.” Doing so is putting a man and his monetary/capitalistic accomplishments above the quality of his character. As the “leaders and best” something U of M loves to boast, it is important we recognize the injustice in our own community and do something about it. That does not mean just rename the arena and ignore Fielding Yost’s history here, but it rather means to remove Yost’s name to take away an honor from a person who does not deserve it and instead remember them as they were, for all the good, and more importantly, all the bad.
I encourage everyone to read the historical analysis collected by the committee. Fielding Yost, by the standards of his own time, was a terrible racist.
He spoke at eugenics conferences. He used his power to impede black athletes, acceding to their presence only when their outstanding abilities were clear. This was over the objections and efforts of his contemporaries. Gerald Ford was so angry over the benching of a black athlete, Willis Ward, when playing a southern team, that he refused to play until Ward personally asked him to play. During the game, Ford tackled one of the southern players, who was hurling racial epithets, so hard that he had to leave the game.
He even persecuted those of his contemporary community who dared to protest his actions. Using university athletic funds, he hired private investigators (Pinkertons) to find the ringleaders of the student protests against the benching of Ward. They were later expelled.
It is possible to remember someone’s positive contributions without celebrating them with their name on a prominent building. Fielding Yost deserves to be remembered for the prominent role he played in Michigan history. He does not deserve the accolade of having his name on a prominent building
To quote Willis Ward, the black player benched by Yost: “It was wrong and it will always be wrong.”
I believe the name should NOT be changed.