May 6, 2016
Debates concerning university building and statuary naming and denaming decisions have placed several important issues front and center across the nation. One particular issue is the challenge many prestigious universities face as they grapple with how to recognize historic figures whose opinions and views have proved to be abhorrent by today’s moral standards. It’s a challenge, too, for the University of Oregon as well as a leadership opportunity. As an institution that embraces diversity and understands the critical importance of inclusion in preserving the university’s status as a flagship public research institution, the UO stands on the shoulders of prior generations of Oregonians. These architects and builders of its excellence and its legacy included people who, like many of their generation, fostered—and sometimes championed—supremacist ideologies and exclusionary practices that are anathema to the values of the university today. Thus, the university struggles, like many of its peers, with the challenge of how to honor the legacy of those who created the strong institution we value today, while acknowledging and grappling with their often deeply flawed personal views and hateful actions.
Our goal must be vigilance in celebrating the diversity of races, ethnicities, religious perspectives, genders, sexualities, and ideologies that empower our intellectually vibrant community, while acknowledging the flaws and the strengths of those who contributed to the university’s legacy, some of whose flaws have been too long ignored. Just as this nation wrestles with the need to acknowledge the deep personal flaws of many of its Founding Fathers, while still appreciating the sacrifice and foresight they brought to the creation of our republic, the University of Oregon must examine the entire legacy of those whose efforts created our institution. We must acknowledge that an uncritical celebration of those whose thoughts and actions contributed to historic oppression adds to an environment that is perceived as hostile and unwelcoming to many people whose contributions are today so critical to the success of the university and society at large.
It is within this context that the University of Oregon, as a leading research institution that encourages lifelong learning as well as academic excellence, will take on the question of whether the names of Dunn and Deady Halls should be changed, using the process and the criteria set forth below.
In February, I charged a working group of faculty and staff members, students, and community members to suggest to me a set of criteria for denaming buildings on campus. I received that report and a separate report written by one member of the working group. Over the ensuing weeks I have consulted with a variety of faculty members and representatives of various campus constituencies, including some deans, members of the Black Student Task Force, and senior administrators. I would very much like to thank the working group for its careful analysis of the problem. Similarly, I would like to thank the Black Student Task Force for bringing the matter to my attention and for providing me with valuable insight and advice.
After these consultations and a good deal of reflection, I have decided to implement the following criteria and process to address the question of whether the names of Dunn Hall and Deady Hall should be changed. The criteria, while informed by the efforts of the working group on denaming buildings, are my work product and not theirs. Building on their recommendations, and after deliberation and consultation, I have determined to follow this process for an examination of whether to dename Dunn Hall, Deady Hall, or both.
Criteria for Denaming Dunn and/or Deady Halls
A building shall be considered for denaming if the person for whom a building is named acted in one of the following ways:
- Actively sponsored legislation or lobbied on behalf of laws and policies that perpetuated historic and contemporary acts of genocide and indigenous dispossession, slavery or internment, and/or promoted exclusionary migration or immigration laws, restrictive naturalization and voting laws, antimiscegenation laws, alien land laws, and laws or practices promoting racial segregation in housing and public accommodations.
- Promoted violence against an individual or group based on race, gender, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, or political affiliation.
- Was a member of a nongovernmental organization or society that promoted or engaged in acts of violence or intimidation targeting individuals or groups based on race, gender, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, or political affiliation.
- Engaged in practices, behaviors, or other actions that contravene the values articulated in the university’s mission statement and bring infamy or dishonor to the university.
- Demonstrated discriminatory, racist, homophobic, or misogynist views that actively promoted systemic oppression, taking into consideration the mores of the era in which he or she lived.
- Failed to take redemptive action, particularly in the context of the specific actions and behaviors set forth above.
I will appoint a panel of three historians with demonstrated knowledge of the history of the state of Oregon and charge that panel with the task of examining the commemoration of Dunn and Deady Halls in light of the criteria set forth above. Specifically, the panel will be asked to evaluate whether Matthew Deady or Frederic Dunn engaged in the actions or behaviors set forth in the first five enumerated criteria above and, if so, whether their lives showed evidence of redemption (criterion number 6).
The panel will be asked to seek input from a broad array of sources, focused on information from the historical record. To the extent relevant information is available from persons outside the group, they should feel free to contact those individuals.
Once the panel of history experts reports back to me, a moderated webpage will be established by the university on which the report will be published and where individuals will be able to register their own views on whether the halls should be renamed. To the extent practical, information on the historical records of Dunn and Deady will also be published on the website.
I will take under consideration the reports of the panel of history experts, the material posted on the website, and any other relevant information, and decide whether to recommend the denaming of Deady and/or Dunn Halls to the Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon. If I decide to recommend a denaming of one or both buildings, I will forward that recommendation to the board for final decision. If I decide not to recommend such a denaming, the matter will be deemed closed.
Regardless of whether I recommend denaming the halls to the board, I will entertain appropriate steps by which the university may acknowledge the full and accurate record of Dunn and Deady’s impact on the history of the university and the state of Oregon—and commit to the following:
- The creation of interpretive displays to be erected in a prominent place in Dunn and Deady Halls explaining each building’s history, the history of those with whom the buildings were affiliated, and how those histories might be viewed in their own times and in contemporary Oregon.
- A program for the installation of interpretive apparatuses, as appropriate, in selected campus buildings, statuary, and other permanent commemorative installations that outline their respective histories, the histories of those after whom they’ve been named, inclusive of all historical information.
- Genuine efforts to erect other representative icons on campus that speak to the contributions of underrepresented peoples at the university, in the region, across the state, and throughout the United States at large.