July 22, 2019
Dear University of Oregon community members,
This fall the University of Oregon will proudly open the new Black Cultural Center on our campus. It will be a home base for academic and social activities of Black students and a place where other students and visitors can learn about the Black student experience and history at the UO through exhibits and programs. Creation of the center came out of the demands of the Black Student Task Force, seeking to make the university a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse place. A center of such distinction requires a name that reflects the important mission it will embody.
Following a robust process of input and research, a university committee of students, faculty members, and staff have recommended two finalists for consideration: Derrick Bell and Lyllye B. Parker. Bell was a former UO law school dean and celebrated law professor who established a field of study known as critical race theory. Parker is a member of one of Eugene’s first black families, a civil rights activist, and UO alumna who worked as an academic advisor at the UO for 17 years. These two were selected from 21 nominations made by campus and community members.
I am incredibly thankful to the committee for forwarding the names of two exemplary individuals who both personify the kind of academic exploration, community building, and personal transformation that will take place in the new Black Cultural Center.
I invite the campus community and public to provide their input on these two finalists by using this input form. Public comment is open until Friday, August 2. Additional information about Bell and Parker are available on the Division of Student Life website. I will make a final recommendation to the UO Board of Trustees and they will vote on the selection in their September board meeting.
To select a name for the center, I charged the committee, led by Vice President for Student Life Kevin Marbury, with taking nominations, seeking input, and conducting research on individuals for whom the building could be named and that would represent the importance and mission of the Black Cultural Center.
The criteria sought an individual who has:
- made significant contributions in service, support, or honor to the University of Oregon or to the State of Oregon;
- an extraordinary record of leadership and commitment to advancing justice and equity for Black people in Oregon;
- demonstrated evidence of overcoming oppression and discrimination;
- strongly advocated for the pursuit of knowledge and advancement of higher education;
- worked in support of an inclusive and equitable University of Oregon campus;
- created work that has led to achievements of extraordinary and lasting distinction; and
- helped Black students and/or community members achieve success in higher education and the pursuit of careers.
In his report to me, Vice President Marbury says he was impressed with the array of influence and accomplishments of the many nominees considered. The committee ultimately selected two individuals who will, in the committee’s words, help to “to tell a story to future generations, to connect the past with the future through more than just a sign on a map but through an understanding of that individual’s lasting legacy and impact.”
I am grateful to the Black Cultural Center naming committee for their time and dedication, all who nominated individuals, and to the many groups and individuals who provided input on the process, timeline, and criteria for selection.
Again, I look forward to the grand opening of the Black Cultural Center bearing a wonderful new name in October (additional detail to come), and I thank you, in advance, for your input.
Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law