Historical figures

Carl Vogt - History of a Name

From the outset, the name of the Uni Carl Vogt building has provoked debate within the Alma Mater, which was called upon to evaluate the different legacies of the Geneva scientist and politician.

2013 – A toponymic choice

The University's services are working on the 66 Bd Carl-Vogt building's construction final phases. It will be a multidisciplinary place, enlightening the synergies between researchers working on environmental themes; it will bring together multiple skills, from the exact sciences to the humanities in its broadest sense. The name Uni Carl Vogt has been chosen in accordance with a common practice at the University, whose buildings are often named after the place where they are located: Uni Bastions, Uni Dufour, Uni Mail. This facilitates their eventual reallocation.

November 2013 – First debate in the Assembly

On 20 November, the University Assembly decides to name the building Uni Carl Vogt by 25 votes in favour, none against and 10 abstentions. Carl Vogt's racist and sexist thesis are recalled during the debate, but the Assembly chooses a pragmatic approach - the building is named after the boulevard on which it is located - and recognises the importance of Carl Vogt's role in the modernisation of the University, of which he was rector.

June 2015 - Inauguration of the building

The political and academic authorities inaugurate the Uni Carl Vogt building on Thursday 18 June. It is dedicated to "environment, territory and sustainability". It opens its doors to the general public the same evening, with a conference by the astrophysicist Hubert Reeves. Read more (in French)

June 2020 - Reflecting on historical figures

Amidst mobilisations on equality, harassment and racism, the figure of Carl Vogt once again raises controversies. On 15 June 2020, the Rectorate announces the creation of a multidisciplinary reflection group to study the handling of scientific heritage by the University and the issue of historical figures and their place in public space. The mandate is broad and doesn’t focus on Carl Vogt, whose figure is of course addressed.

June to September 2020 - Public questioning

Juliet Fall, a UNIGE Professor, writes an open letter to Carl Vogt in the form of a comic strip. She recalls his racist and sexist writings and questions his place in the public space. Her comic strip appears on the UNIGE website and in the local press on 17 June, shortly before the launch in September of a petition initiated by members of the university community, asking that the building be renamed. It has a particular resonance in the context of the Black Lives Matter demonstration, in reaction to the death of the American George Floyd, which had brought together 10,000 people in Geneva just a few weeks earlier.

February 2022 - Finalisation of the report

The Reflection Group, chaired by Professor of Biomedical Ethics Samia Hurst-Majno, meets 11 times between November 2020 and November 2021. Its members come from different Faculties (Medicine, Law, Social Sciences, Humanities, Science, Theology), and their work is enriched by testimonies from concrete local, national and international experiences. The report is finalised on 11 February 2022 and shared with the University authorities.

May 2022 - The report is published

The Rectorate follows the recommendation of the Reflection group and publishes the final report on 5 May, after a new debate in the University Assembly in April. The report is publicised through the University Journal. One of its recommendations is to change the name of Uni Carl Vogt.

June 2022 – Consulting the UNIGE bodies

The Rectorate is favourable to change the name of the building and submits this proposal for consultation with the University bodies before taking a final decision. The Rectorate-Decanates Council, the University Assembly, the Strategic Orientation Council and the Ethics and Deontology Committee give their answers between June and September. The majority of opinions are favourable, although some oppositions is expressed within certain entities.

September 2022 - Towards a new name

On 26 September, the Rectorate reasserts its decision: Uni Carl Vogt will be renamed. The building signage will shortly be replaced by the mention "University of Geneva", as is already the case on Uni Dufour and a plate will be affixed to the building to provide contextual information. The decision is motivated in particular by the fact that the name is recent and that at the time of the naming the problematic aspect of Carl Vogt's legacy was already known. A new name will be chosen at a later stage, as part of a wider process of reflection on the University's names in the public space.

January 2023 - Installation of an explanatory plaque at the entrance of the building

On 25 January, an explanatory plate is affixed to the entrance of the building and the name "Uni Carl Vogt" is replaced by "Université de Genève", thus finalizing the process undertaken by the institution. A new name will be chosen at a later stage, as part of a wider process of reflection on the University's names in the public space.