The recent violent and criminal destruction of the UO’s legendary, century-old Pioneer and Pioneer Mother statues was a disgrace! Generations of university students have walked past these two iconic memorials to a distant time.
It is not necessary to either lionize or demonize those who traversed the Great Plains, enduring cholera, death of loved ones and great hardships en route to the Oregon country. The sweat and tears of past Oregonians are mixed into the mortar of the UO’s landmark buildings.
It is unarguably true that the uprooting, displacement, removal and ethno-erasure of the once elaborate native American Oregon culture was fraught with violence, greed, broken promises, and unratified treaties.
The Pioneer statues, crafted by Alexander Phimister Proctor, in a league with Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington, were masterpieces of subtle artistry. Surely the Pioneer Mother, donated by esteemed Portland philanthropist Burt Brown Barker in honor of his own mother and her counterparts who were “in the twilight of their years,” was no “Indian killer.” In fact, Brown’s own elderly mother, Elvira Brown Barker, who came across the plains at age three in 1847, sat for the famed sculptor.
These revered UO monuments could have been peaceably relocated and not smashed and gashed with pickaxes and sledgehammers. They should be immediately repaired and their cowardly assailants prosecuted.
Scott Bartlett, BA ’89 (political science)
I'm so sorry to hear of the toppling of the Pioneer Mother and the other vandalism—I haven’t lived in Oregon for many years (I’m an Easterner, now, Maryland), but similar things are happening here. I hope they’re all brought to justice!
Ann Boehm, BMus ’68
Schyler A. Reis, graduate student (environmental science, studies, and policy)
Ducks are getting too political in these messages. If you really have a problem with a statue of the Pioneer Mother on campus, I’m not sure I am part of the Duck family anymore.
Cathleen Hoffman, MBA ’83 (finance)
Systemic racism is frequently cited to explain many recent institutional changes. I’m curious, what is the definition of systemic racism used by the U of O? Specifically, parse the term and explain “systemic” and what that means in terms of the policies, procedures, and practices of the university, and how that has been manifested over the history of the institution. Then, explain what’s meant by racism. Is this limited to Black Americans, or more broadly applied? The BLM movement appears to confine this to Blacks. If this applies only to Blacks, is an objection to a position or proposal made by someone advocating for Blacks racism? If not, when does civil discourse spill over into racism when applied to others? What is the U of O position?
Charles Firth, BA ’79 (history), MBA ’81 (management)
Auburn, New Hampshire
Does the alumni association plan to stand by and do nothing while the University of Oregon deteriorates under the political correctness of a liberal, progressive, Black culture that foments anarchy, violence, vandalism, and destruction of property? Associate Professor Charise Cheney should be censured for her remark published in the summer 2020 Oregon Quarterly “Same white shit, different Black bodies. May their deaths not be in vain.” Michael H. Schill should be terminated as the university president because he has condoned vandalism that toppled statues of The Pioneer and Pioneer Mother, both integral components of the cultural history of Oregon. Discipline, law, and order need to be instilled into the student body and if individuals cannot comply with that protocol they need to be expelled.
I will not be surprised if Deady Hall becomes the next vandal target for destruction unless some positive action is now taken.
I do not anticipate that any action will be taken on my correspondence. That does not mean I do not plan to stand up for my country and I no longer will recommend the University of Oregon to any prospective students.
Thomas E. Dent Sr., BS ’58 (business administration)
Denaming Deady Hall
As a third-generation Duck, I was proud of the speed with which the administration addressed the history and namesake of the above building where I spent many long dreary days in math classes. I had no idea of the history attached to the building even though my grandfather, plus later my father and uncle, attended Oregon from 1912 to 1916 until his National Guard unit was sent to the Mexican border in 1916.
Even the “flashback” brief on Sigma Nu fraternity being placed on probation in 1960 caught my eye, since I pledged their house only to later depledge and join the now infamous ATO house (aka Animal Training Organization) well before the Animal House movie made the university famous for so many other reasons. Living for three years at the “jock” house was a daunting experience with so many talented athletes in all sports but, regrettably, many are not with us today.
Your magazine never fails to bring back so many treasured memories.
John C. Braun, BA ’63, BS ’65 (general social science)
NOT FOOLED BY M. SCHILL. Renaming buildings—relocating statues—seems merely performative when, for years, he’s never really tried to work with the Black Student Union or take them seriously.
Evelyn (Smith) Melgoza, BS ’81 (music)
Renaming Deady Hall is like renaming all the military bases that were named after Confederate and other Civil War personnel. You can’t change History!
N. Dwayne Haynes, BS ’57 (business administration)
As usual, great articles. But I am wondering why you did not include any medical people in your article about “experts” talking about COVID-19? (Summer 2020) You have some amazing, caring, and knowledgeable medical people on campus caring for the students at the Health Center!
I have just recently retired as a registered nurse and I can tell you the medical staff and all the workers there are smart and caring and are now on the front lines in regards to COVID. The medical care and compassion they are giving to the students they are still seeing on campus is outstanding! I hope you can acknowledge and appreciate their work and wisdom as well.
University of Oregon Health Center
Please use “real” science to justify shutting down campus. By real science, I mean dig deep into the numbers of “actual” COVID-19 deaths in Lane County, compare those deaths to seasonal flu deaths. Also, please show numbers of deaths among college-age students. While you’re at it, please give an example of “systemic racism” in this area (or US at-large). That phrase is thrown around with abandon, but I never see a particular institution pointed out—are colleges like UO systemically racist? The armed forces?
Stephen Knight, BS ’81 (journalism)
Cottage Grove, Oregon
The following appeared in the print edition of the Autumn 2020 Oregon Quarterly:
In the Summer Oregon Quarterly’s “UO Voices on Racism,” Associate Professor Charise Cheney smugly—and I suppose unassailably—asserts that the attack by Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin on George Floyd was “Same white shit, different Black bodies.” In my view, that assertion—not to mention the facile assumptions behind it—is racist.
Stephen Thom, BA ’73 (Clark Honors College, English)
The first sentence of your Summer Oregon Quarterly mixes facts with opinion. Your writer begins, “COVID-19 and a painful coming-to-grips with systemic racism . . .” The first item (COVID-19) is a fact. Systemic racism, whatever that means and whether it “exists,” is an opinion.
Please don’t mix facts with opinion going forward.
Gary Wolf, BS ’72 (business administration), MBA ’74 (finance)
As a woman of Hispanic heritage, I take issue with the first sentence of your message (Summer 2020). I do not believe the United States is guilty of SYSTEMIC racism. Rather, some INDIVIDUALS in the US are guilty of racism. In fact, I believe it is blatantly racist for you to characterize our entire country as racist because of the bigotry of some.
It is my opinion that racism is both individual and multifaceted, based on personal experience. For example, I have been witness to white-on-Black racism; but I have also witnessed the reverse, as well as many other iterations of racism relevant to Asians, Hispanics, Italians, Irish, etc. There are individuals within every race and ethnicity who are racist—those who choose to judge people by the color of their skin or their heritage, rather than the quality of their character.
Racism will not be eradicated through renaming buildings, tearing down statues, or creating new policies that benefit one group over another. I believe it will only be overcome through education, and by improving the condition of every individual.
We must teach our country’s unbiased history—warts and all—and show how, as a country and as individuals, we are continually evolving and improving by recognizing past mistakes. Many of the individuals in our history who are being condemned today saw the error of their ways and should be recognized for that.
Powell Butte, Oregon
Now that U of O has stripped Matthew Deady’s name from its loveliest building, we eagerly look forward to the day when it rids its campus and its curriculum of the scripted dogma of Deady’s racist Democrat political party.
However, until that time, we already have plenty of statue-toppling mob violence and sanctimonious white-liberal infantilization of Blacks up here in Portland. We don’t need to be reminded that it extends in a straight line back to the Democrat propaganda that U of O dispensed to us in lieu of an education 35 years ago.
Kindly stop sending Oregon Quarterly to our house.
Katherin Kirkpatrick, BA ’86 (linguistics) and Christopher Johnson, BA ’85 (history)
Who will be next? Anyone with Spanish heritage whose ancestors were responsible for hiring native Africans to hunt and capture other native Africans, then march them to ports to be sold and shipped to not only America, but to other countries?
Or perhaps anyone who had grandparents in Poland who may, just may, have “assisted” the Germans in WWII by not taking up arms in resistance, but just trying to survive another day! Are we to call them out as traitors and punish their kin?
We all live in “times” that are constantly changing—that is a fact of life, handle it! We should all strive to live by the Golden Rule and look forward, not look backwards. You cannot realistically “erase” history, but you can learn valuable lessons by studying history and learning to do better in the future.
Allen Parelius, MS ’62 (education), DEd ’69 (special education)
How convenient to not mention Deady was a Democrat!
Herb Taylor, MBA ’82 (accounting)
“Dad, are you glad we moved to Canada to get away from all the people that had to leave their homes because of the coastal flooding?”
“Dad, don’t you think it’s too bad what is happening to America?”
“Yes it is son.”
“Dad, did you try to make things better in America when you were younger?”
“What did you do?”
“On my college campus, I protested police brutality of Blacks and I helped tear down some statues that reflected oppression and racial injustice.”
“And that helped make it go away Dad?”
“Well, people didn’t have to be reminded of the statues’ hypocrisy.”
“So when you walked by where they used to stand, you didn’t have to think about racial injustice?”
“Son, I think you should go up and do your homework.”
Steve Dossey, BS ’71 (psychology)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
How do you move forward? Just like you have been. Give in to the mob and soon the only useful purpose for the university will be to serve as a landfill.
Stephen Bellotti, BS ’75 (accounting)
San Jose, California
As an alum, I am saddened that UO has succumbed to allowing radicals to topple statues and has nothing to say but suggest that these actions are part of necessary change. You state, without citing examples, that our systems are inherently racist. You’d think a higher education institution would inquire and endeavor to understand what groups they are supporting and the generic assertions they are making before sending out emails and taking long-lasting stances. There is this thing called due process and freedom of speech, and that does not encompass mob thuggery and vandalism, which last I checked were unlawful. Standing by and allowing these tactics to normalize turns a blind eye to justice and the rule of law, which I was taught when I attended. Is there anyone there paying attention?
Christi Pavia, JD ’93
I am disappointed at the lip service regarding dismantling systems of oppression and systemic racism—when the activists and advocates who removed visible symbols celebrating our legacy of oppression are called “vandals” in the same opening line. Oregon Quarterly and its writing staff and editors have work to do to unpack what it means to be antiracist, or they will continue to make visible the toxic racism and oppression they’ve imbibed in their coverage of this movement.
Kimberlee Pelster, MEd ’20 (educational leadership)
Vandals!?! Did you need to call them “vandals”? That was a despicable editorial decision.
Jerry Rosiek, professor, Education Studies
I thought your recent “Miler’s Memoriam” (Summer 2020) eulogizing Jim Bailey missed an opportunity to enlighten readers about Bill Dellinger, who was also pictured in the photo of the two UO Ducks running on the Hayward Field track. While Mr. Bailey’s achievements were indeed noteworthy, Dellinger was an American, an Olympic bronze medalist at 5,000 meters, and a UO track-and-field head coach (specializing in long-distance runners) for decades thereafter.
Mark Lansing, BA ’79 (Clark Honors College, journalism)
Grants Pass, Oregon
I was delighted to read the article about Jim Barnett (Summer 2020). Loved watching his passion on the floor in the old Mac Court in the ’60s.
Owen Panner, Jr. BA ’69 (English)
As always, I found your Summer 2020 issue of Oregon Quarterly a good reading companion for a quiet hour. The photographs of the (almost deserted) campus by Jasper Zhou were especially evocative and brought back memories of a “more peaceful” time.
William D. “Bill” Brewer, BA ’65 (Clark Honors College, chemistry, mathematics)
Norm Van Brocklin
I found it perplexing in a time of social change and racial awareness that the Old Oregon section featured a book about Norm Van Brocklin (Summer 2020). His football fame aside, Van Brocklin was an abrasive, profane, and openly racist individual. In David “Deacon” Jones’ autobiography Headslap, he recounts several times that Van Brocklin used the N-word in reference to him. One need only review old NFL Films footage of Van Brocklin to witness him insulting people based on ethnicity and race which—even for that time—is offensive and shocking.
At a time when buildings are being renamed and statues that generically represent a period in time are being vandalized, the University of Oregon’s own publication needs to be consistent in its values and avoid hypocrisy.
Greg Ingold, BA ’05 (medieval studies)
Editor’s note: Karen Vanderyt, author of The Dutchman and Portland’s Finest Rose and daughter of the late Gloria and Norm Van Brocklin, writes: “I wrote the book to provide a more balanced look at my parent’s earlier years, before fame and media painted their own narrative. Chapters 49–51 deal with racism in 1948, as the Ducks football team voted unanimously to accept the ’49 Cotton Bowl bid only if their African American teammates Win Wright, Chet Daniels, and Woodley Lewis were guaranteed to play.”
We want to hear from you. Submit your letters at OregonQuarterly.com, by email to email@example.com, or by mail to Editor, Oregon Quarterly, 5228 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-5228. Published letters may be edited for brevity, clarity, and style.