Panel to explore the renaming of Dunn Hall to Unthank Hall

Unveiling the new Unthank Hall plaque

A civil rights historian, an equity and social justice advocate, and a member of the Black Student Task Force will participate in a panel discussion on campus about the renaming of Dunn Hall to Unthank Hall. 

The event, “How Students Used History to Change the Future: The Dunn, Unthank Case Study,” will take place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, in the Erb Memorial Union’s Redwood Auditorium.

UO President Michael Schill will moderate the panel discussion, which is designed to explore the role student activism played in advancing the conversation about race, tolerance and inclusion at the UO.

“Naming Unthank Hall took our campus on an incredibly educational journey,” Schill said. “We learned about our history, the needs of our students and some of our amazing alumni. My hope is that this panel discussion will allow us to reflect on what worked and further what we learned. After all, renaming one building is in no way an end to our journey.”

Schill led an extensive historical study, discussion and deliberation last spring before the university chose Unthank Hall to honor respected alumnus DeNorval Unthank Jr. Members of the Black Student Task Force asked that the name Dunn, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, be removed from the hall. Unthank  was the first African-American graduate of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, a longtime advocate for Oregon’s black community and a respected alumnus who remained deeply connected to the university over the course of his life.

The panel includes three people:

  • Curtis Austin, an associate professor of history at the University of Oregon. Austin came to the UO this fall from the Ohio State University, where he directed the Young Scholars Program and taught civil rights movement history. Austin previously taught at the University of Southern Mississippi and was founding director of USM’s Center for Black Studies. His publications have received wide acclaim in the fields of American history and African-American studies.
  • Dante James, director of Portland’s Office of Equity and Human Rights, who has more 25 years of experience in political, nonprofit and legal work in the areas of social justice, civil rights and government contracting. He has been an attorney in private practice, a public defender and an administrative hearing officer. He is also a member of the President’s Diversity Advisory Community Council.
  • Brianna Hayes, a senior majoring in political science and philosophy. She is an active student leader on campus and is a key figure in the Black Student Task Force efforts to bring about change on the UO campus. She is also co-director of the Black Student Union. Hayes was a student when the task force raised the issue of building renaming to Schill and served on the committee to select a new name for what is now Unthank Hall.

The panel discussion, which is open to the public, is sponsored by the Office of the President and the Division of Equity and Inclusion. Questions about the event can be directed to Angela Wilhelms.