In September 2018, the board voted to retain the name of the Butts-Whiting Award.

From 2017–18, ACUI examined allegations that Porter Butts, namesake of the Association's highest honor, was involved in a student organization named the Ku Klux Klan while an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. When this information was brought to the board's attention in 2017, the board charged a working group to recommend procedures for vetting and examining issues related to the Association’s named awards. The board approved these recommendations in March 2018, and the working group went on to use them in reviewing concerns raised about Butts. The board accepted the working group's recommendations in September. Further information relevant to this decision is available below.

About the Decision

Who made this decision?  
The ACUI Board of Trustees. The authority to name awards, scholarships, programs, activities, or facilities to honor individuals, groups, or corporations is solely vested in the Board of Trustees. According to ACUI policy, the board is the only body with the authority to remove a name from an award and to create new awards.
Why did they make this decision?
The board appreciated the working group's due diligence related to this matter, including their level of care and commitment to understanding the complexities of the charge. They also agreed with the working group's determination that there was no evidence to suggest Butts was racist or agreed with the national Ku Klux Klan's ideology.

Additionally, board members applied their lens as educators, familiar with the learning and development of undergraduates. Without knowing what biases or student development transformations Butts had as a student, they valued his thoughts and noted that his efforts to improve campus inclusivity as a professional are well documented.
Who do I contact if I have questions or feedback? 
Please email, and your message will be directed to the appropriate individual. Alternatively, ACUI CEO John Taylor can be reached at 812.245.8052.
What is the Butts-Whiting Award? 
The Butts-Whiting Award was established in 1968 as the Association’s pinnacle achievement, recognizing long-term commitment to the union and activities profession as well as service to ACUI. Nominees must be currently active in the field and have served in the profession for more than 10 years. Recipients are selected through a confidential process involving current and past volunteers. Porter Butts and Edgar Whiting, its namesakes, were the first recipients of the award, and ACUI has gone on to recognize 50 additional honorees.   
Who was Porter Butts?
Porter F. Butts, often called the “elder statesman” of the college union profession, began his career with the Wisconsin Union at the University of Wisconsin–Madison before its building was built and stayed there for almost 50 years until his retirement in 1970. He drew on his experience from planning the Wisconsin Union to help more than 100 colleges and universities plan their own union buildings. His name appears throughout the history of the college union movement and particularly in ACUI’s annals. He attended his first ACUI annual conference at Cornell University in 1926, served as president in 1932, and was editor of publications from 1936–70. He initiated and administered the predecessor of today’s Career Center, proposed the regional system, started the intercollegiate recreation tournaments, and wrote The College Union Idea. He also wrote the first draft of The Role of the College Union .

His commitment to the union philosophy led to his deep interest in the international union movement, which resulted in State of the College Union Around the World, a comprehensive book about unions in 60 countries. This commitment also led him, along with Edgar Whiting, to persuade federal agencies to include unions in the federal loan program, without which many union facilities never would have been built.
Was Porter Butts a racist? 
It is impossible to know without a doubt the mind of another individual, let alone one who died decades ago. What was revealed through this investigation was that Porter Butts did not self-select to participate in the student organization named the Ku Klux Klan and that he might have had a role in denouncing its name while still a student. As a professional, he went on to demonstrate a commitment to inclusion through his actions as union director at the University of Wisconsin, as an ambassador for the Association, and as a prolific author. Therefore, the preponderance of evidence was interpreted to suggest that he was not a racist. 
Who was Edgar Whiting?

No concerns or renaming proposals have been received at this time related to Edgar Whiting, the second individual for whom the Butts-Whiting Award was named. Therefore, consistent with the established procedures, no formal review panel was formed to conduct a vetting process. 

Edgar Whiting served as ACUI’s secretary-treasurer from 1941–68, helping to make the Association what it is today. Whiting kept the Association books, answered inquiries about unions, wrote to prospective members, produced the annual conference proceedings, and filled publication orders, working from an office in his home during evenings and weekends. After 1963, Whiting ran the employment service that is now the ACUI Career Center. He also arranged and managed the Association’s annual conferences for 20 years, sometimes planning three years in advance. His devotion to excellence and unparalleled leadership service established a model of professionalism highly regarded in the college union field today.

All of this was accomplished during his service as director of Cornell University’s Willard Straight Hall from 1958–70. Previously he was assistant director under Foster Coffin. During the first half of his tenure, Whiting donated his time on a voluntary basis; only during the second half was ACUI able to afford a token stipend for his services. Whiting also served in the U.S. Army from 1944–46 and later reenlisted and served 1950–52.
When he retired from the field in 1971, he received an ACUI honorary membership at the annual conference “for his 40 years of devoted service to the union at Cornell, for his 27 years of incalculable contributions to this association, for the thrusts forward he has given to the union movement by working steadfastly at it with talent and wisdom, and for being the already honorable person and friend he is.” 

Why now?
The impetus for this project was information about Porter Butts’ involvement as an undergraduate in a student organization called the Klu Klux Klan. In August 2017, the University of Wisconsin published information about the student group and initiated its own study group to address the matter. Knowledge of Butts’ involvement in this student group was new to ACUI staff and the current Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees immediately established a working group and asked them to recommend a process to vet individuals who would be honored by named awards and to recommend how ACUI should examine issues or concerns raised about individuals named for established awards or honors. Those procedures were approved by the board in March 2018 and were applied in evaluating Porter Butts. In August 2018, the board received the working group’s report on this second phase of their charge. 
What was the timeline for this process?

In August 2017, the ACUI Board of Trustees created the Naming ACUI Awards and Honors Working Group to look at procedures related to naming opportunities within the Association. This was in response to the study group initiated at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.  

Applications were collected from the ACUI membership to join this working group, and members were confirmed by October 2017.  

After compiling and reviewing resources such as sample naming policies and news/reports related to naming issues, the first step identified was to draft a set of Guiding Principles for Naming Decisions (see below). After collecting feedback from the ACUI membership on a draft through an online survey and a scheduled open forum, the principles were adjusted and accepted by the Board of Trustees in March 2018.  Simultaneously, the working group drafted procedures for naming or renaming of ACUI awards (see below), which were also accepted by the Board of Trustees in March 2018.  

The University of Wisconsin study group report was released in April 2018, which allowed the working group to apply these new procedures and begin addressing the third item of their charge. The review process included conversations with and evidence from Butts’ daughter Sherrill Randall and Wisconsin Union Director Emeritus Ted Crabb, as well as current and archival materials from the University of Wisconsin, ACUI, and other media sources.  

Over a four-month period, the working group obtained and reviewed nearly 60 sources and engaged in significant discussion around process, standards of evidence, and the challenging task to consider the recognition provided to Porter Butts. The final report and recommendations of the working group were presented to the Board of Trustees in August 2018. 

Can this decision be appealed? 
ACUI now has a process to evaluate naming decisions. Should new information become available, the board could choose to take further action within these procedures.
What is the University of Wisconsin doing related to this situation?
In August 2017, the University of Wisconsin chancellor asked a study group to review the history of the student organizations named after or otherwise affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan. This study group released its report in April 2018, resulting in numerous actions at the institution, but not renaming any campus facilities.

In response, the Wisconsin Union Council issued its own resolution in April 2018. After additional meetings during the months to follow, the Union Council released an amended resolution in August 2018, including relocating the Porter Butts name from their art gallery to another permanent non-programming location within the Memorial Union.
How does ACUI decide whether to name an award or scholarship after someone?

By policy, the Board of Trustees has the authority to create Association awards and scholarships and to name them in honor of an individual. 

The process and rationale behind award naming decisions made decades ago is not clear in all cases—beyond acknowledging a connection between the individual namesakes’ legacy and the purpose of the corresponding award. Recent naming decisions have followed a proposal process. Component groups of the Association, such as the ACUI Education and Research Fund or the Volunteer Development Team, have worked with stakeholders to submit proposals outlining the award name, purpose, criteria, and any intended monetary scholarship amounts. Since 2013, the naming of a monetary award or scholarship has required a minimum of $10,000 in donated funds prior to the approval of the scholarship by the board.

Moving forward, the newly established guiding principles of vetting procedures will be utilized to establish new named awards or scholarships and to address concerns raised regarding existing namesakes. 

What is ACUI doing related to diversity and inclusion?

Since the benchmarking project of 2014, ACUI has created a workforce around this effort. Each of the Association's eight regions has an inclusivity coordinator, and the staff has identified a senior diversity officer. Additionally, the Council for Diversity and Inclusion brings together representatives from the Board of Trustees, Volunteer Development Team, Communities of Practice, Education Council, Central Office, regions, and the general membership to support the Association's D&I strategy across all its programs and services.

Within this strategy, the Association has created more structure and standards for its D&I efforts. Content related to Intercultural Proficiency has been offered at all face-to-face programs as well as digital badges and webinars. Also at events, all-gender restrooms, nursing mother suites, prayer and reflection spaces, and captioning services have been added and these are routinely offered at the Annual Conference and most Regional Conferences. Additionally, when selecting new Annual Conference sites, a clause is incorporated into any agreements, allowing ACUI to terminate the contract without penalty should new laws be enacted that conflict with our values. All the Association's contracts now contain a broad nondiscrimination clause as well. 

In terms of communication, with ACUI rebrand in 2017, comprehensive branding guidelines provide standards for inclusive language. Desirable formats of communication are also part of this resource (e.g., presentation slides considerations for people with low vision, pronoun usage in email signatures). Volunteer training on this and other areas related to diversity and inclusion are offered regularly. The Council for Diversity and Inclusion has also assisted in improving volunteer selection procedures to ensure equity and transparency. Since 2013, representation of volunteers from traditionally minoritized populations has increased.

Materials Collected

The Naming ACUI Awards and Honors Working Group's full report as well as key evidence below may be helpful in understanding this decision. The March 2018 progress report provides information related to establishing guiding principles and new vetting procedures; the August 2018 final report provides evidence, recommendations, an annotated bibliography, and working group member reflections related to the Porter Butts research.

Progress Report                  Final Recommendations

The Ku Klux Klan Interfraternity Society

A society composed of student leaders in the junior class was formed at the University of Wisconsin in 1919, understood to be a non-secretive organization with representatives from campus fraternities inspired by a similar organization at the University of Illinois.

Porter Butts enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in 1920 and, after joining Alpha Tau Omega, was appointed by the fraternity to join this honorary in 1922.

There is no evidence of this group's affiliation with the national Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and around this same time, a separate organization with a formal affiliation was also recruiting on campus, which came to be known as Kappa Beta Lambda (Klansman Be Loyal).

Name Change of the Organization

The emergence of the Kappa Beta Lambda organization on campus caused the interfraternal organization to discuss changing its name. The Daily Cardinal student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin published the news article featured here in April 1923, in which the president of the organization was quoted, "We changed the name of the organization because so many people confused it with the name of the non-collegiate secret organization of the same name." This change occurred while Butts was still a member of the society; his role in the decision is unknown.

The New Organization's Purpose

The interfraternal society changed its name to "Tumas," the meaning of which is uncertain but is understood to be potentially of Native American origin. The constitution of this organization, pictured here, defines its purpose "to promote good scholarship among fraternity men." This document also outlines the process of how individuals are appointed to become members.

The Daily Cardinal Editorial

While Porter Butts was a senior from 1923–24, he served as managing editor of the Daily Cardinal student newspaper. Shortly after a cross-burning occurred on Lake Mendota, the Daily Cardinal published an editorial on March 11, 1924, entitled "Undesirable and Unneeded," which was highly critical of the Ku Klux Klan—stating: "Americanism, decency, and good citizenship are not symbolized by masks, secrecy, and terrorism," and "at best, the Klan is a silly organization numbering the greater part of its adherents among the uneducated, the ignorant and the illiterate." 

Response and Follow-Up to the Editorial

Following a series of published letters to the editor in the Daily Cardinal, many of which were anonymously in support of the Ku Klux Klan, on March 28, the paper posted a follow up editorial stating: "The letters contributed have not shaken the Cardinal's stand that the Klan is undesirable." It is unclear whether Butts authored these editorials, though it seems likely given his role at the paper that he would have had to give some sort of approval for them to be printed.

Along with the name change of the student group, this establishes some evidence from when Butts was an undergraduate that, through his involvement, he had some awareness of how insidious the national Knights of the Ku Klux Klan organization was.

A Career in the Profession

Upon graduating, Porter Butts began his career with the University of Wisconsin–Madison and stayed there for almost 50 years until his retirement in 1970. When hosting the ACUI conference in 1929, Butts invited women to give reports about Wisconsin Union committee activities, six years prior to when women attended the events as delegates. As ACUI’s editor of publications from 1936–70, Butts wrote The College Union Idea and the first draft of The Role of the College Union, and his commitment to the union philosophy led to his interest in the international union movement, which resulted in State of the College Union Around the World.


A Reflection on the Events

When the subject of the Ku Klux Klan came up in an Wisconsin alumni magazine in 1975, Butts wrote a letter to the executive director of the University of Wisconsin Alumni Association stating that the members of the society at the time "thought the name was curious, irrelevant, and very unfortunate." This letter is the only evidence found of Butts acknowledging the organization. While it is notable that he was reflecting upon the issue with the name decades later, Butts does not say that he was a member of the organization, and this seems like a missed opportunity to clearly articulate his stance on the matter. Given that he never included the organization on any of his biographical information, perhaps this omission can be explained by shame or embarrassment.

Naming ACUI Awards and Honors Working Group Members

Debra Hammond

California State University–Northridge

Dr. Thomas Lane
Missouri State University



Kyle Burke

Northeastern Illinois University

Jessi Eaton
University of Minnesota–Duluth

Dave Edwards
California State University–Fullerton


Anthony Otero
Barnard College

Dr. Susan Payment
Honorary Member
Benjamin Williams
Georgia Institute of Technology


Justin Rudisille

Procedures for Naming Decisions

New procedures for naming or renaming association awards and scholarships have been established, which were created by the Naming ACUI Awards and Honors Working Group and accepted by the Board of Trustees in March 2018.

While the authority to create and to name awards and scholarships is solely vested in the Board of Trustees, proposals for the naming or renaming of an award may originate from any member, retiree, or component group of the Association. A review panel will form to conduct a vetting process, which will assess the extent to which the proposed individual meets the standards for being honored as a namesake on an ACUI award or scholarship—reviewing background information, consulting references, and conducting additional research into ACUI archives and institutional records, as necessary. The panel will prepare a recommendation to the Board of Trustees in support of or in opposition to honoring the individual, and the board will vote on the final decision.

This Procedure for Naming or Renaming of Association Awards and Scholarships also is to utilize the below guiding principles, which were established by the working group, with feedback from the ACUI membership, and accepted by the board in March 2018.

Guiding Principles for Naming Decisions

These principles were established to guide decisions related to vetting individuals who are recommended for naming opportunities for ACUI awards and honors. Recognizing the need to balance the weight given to each of the principles, these are seen as a guidepost for naming decisions, not as a checklist. The full policy and procedures for naming of awards and scholarships are available here.

Due Diligence
Historical and Institutional Context
Learning and Development