The University of Oregon (UO) appears ready to acquiesce to Black Lives Matter by renaming two buildings on campus named for men who held racist views.
In November, 2015, the UO Black Student Task Force presented a list of 12 demands to administrators at the school. The demands included requiring all students to take an ethnic studies class, creating special black-only scholarships, and hiring more black professors in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines.
But the top demand on the list, and one UO has actually moved substantively to meet, was to rename certain buildings on UO’s flagship Eugene campus. In January, UO administrators created a committee to review the fate of Deady Hall, named for Matthew Deady, and Dunn Hall, named for Frederick Dunn. Deady was a judge and politician who helped create Oregon’s state Constitution, which barred all black people from the state. Dunn was a prominent professor in the early 20th century, who also was an officer with the Ku Klux Klan during its 1920s heyday.
“Allowing buildings to be named after [KKK] members who support [racist] views is in direct conflict with the university’s goal [to] keep black students safe on campus,” the November demand list said.
Now, after months of work, the school appears poised to meet the Black Student Task Force’s demand. In an Aug. 9 email to the entire campus, UO president Michael Schill released the results of a historical inquiry into Deady and Dunn’s lives. The inquiry finds ample fault with both, along with ample justification for renaming the buildings that bear their names. Besides his views on race, Deady is also attacked for his “patriarchal views on women’s property rights” and his failure to “disavow” support for slavery before the Civil War. Dunn is accused of terrorism because of the KKK’s cross-burnings, and he is also faulted for a variety of anti-Catholic efforts the Eugene Klan participated in.
Before making a final decision, Schill called on the UO student body to weigh in via a comment form. Which way the student body will lean is unclear.
If UO gives in to the students’ demands, it won’t be the first school to do so. Georgetown renamed two buildings last year that were previously named for college presidents who played a role in the slave trade. Yale University initially rebuffed pressure to rename Calhoun College, but after continued pressure, it announced a new renaming committee that would reconsider that decision.
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