UO President Michael H. Schill is recommending changing the name of Deady Hall, the oldest building on campus, because of the racist views held by Matthew Deady, the first president of what was then the UO Board of Regents and the building’s namesake.
The recommendation will go to the Board of Trustees of the University of Oregon for consideration and action. A special meeting of the board is set for June 24 at 1 p.m. The president outlined his recommendation in a message to campus.
The president also is expanding the charge of an existing campus committee to consider whether any campus statues or monuments should be removed. Student groups and others have called for the removal of The Pioneer and Pioneer Mother statues and a mural in the Knight Library.
Schill had earlier recommended against the name change. But he said continued violence against black Americans by police, the disproportionate effects of COVID-19 on people of color and accelerating racial inequality “have pushed us over a tipping point” and prompted him to reconsider.
“It is now apparent to me that, as long as Matthew Deady’s name remains in a place of honor on our campus, our students of color will feel that they are not valued; that this institution is not their institution,” he wrote in a memo distributed to campus June 10.
UO students and others have renewed their call for the building to be denamed in the wake of the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, a tragedy that has prompted nationwide protest. The UO’s Black Student Task Force first demanded that the building, and a residence hall, be renamed in 2016.
After a thorough review, Schill recommended renaming the residence hall but not Deady Hall. He said that while Deady “held racist views which I find abhorrent,” the UO founder and Oregon’s first federal judge had undergone “a metamorphosis” after the Civil War and became a supporter of the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution and advocate for the rights of Chinese immigrants.
Events since then, including the recent call for renaming by UO trustee Andrew Colas, convinced Schill that his earlier decision should be revisited.
“Trustee action to remove Matthew Deady’s name from our oldest and arguably most prominent building will send a clear message to our black students as well as our entire community that racism has no place in our academic community and that their welfare, inclusion and success is central to our mission,” the president wrote in his message to campus.
He has also asked the Committee on Recognizing Our Diverse History to consider the issue of campus statues and artwork. He will ask the group to complete its work and submit any recommendations during the 2020-21 academic year.
Schill said he recognizes his decision on renaming will not be met with universal agreement. He acknowledged those who believe changing the building’s name breaches the university’s duty to help people learn from history and not cover it up, but he said a greater duty is at stake.
“We all need to be reminded that racism is insidious because it is embedded not just within the villains of history but in many of us, even those of us who go on to do great things like found a university or become federal court judges,” he wrote.
The president also said the progress of the past few years should not be overlooked, even as the university acknowledges the need to do more. He noted that since the original Black Student Task Force demands were made, the UO has opened the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center, launched a Black Studies Program, hired additional faculty of color and increased black student enrollment.
That’s not enough, Schill said, committing to redoubled efforts to combat racism and promote equity.
“Transformation sometimes takes years to successfully accomplish,” he wrote. “But we will not be deterred; the time is ripe for change.”