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Board of Trustees schedule meeting amid renewed push to rename Deady Hall

The building is named for Matthew Deady, a pro-slavery delegate to the Oregon Constitutional Convention and former Regent back in the late 1800's.

Posted: Jun 5, 2020 5:27 PM
Updated: Jun 5, 2020 6:15 PM

Eugene, Ore. -- During Thursday's Board of Trustees meeting at the University of Oregon, trustee Andrew Colas called for the renaming of Deady Hall, leading to a special meeting that will be held in the coming weeks.

Back in 2016 on the heels of the Black Student Task Force's 12 demands of the UO administration, the Board commissioned a historical report on Matthew Deady, who was a former President of the Board of Regents and a pro-slavery delegate to the Oregon Constitutional Convention. 

RELATED: UO BOARD MEMBER RENEWS EFFORT TO RENAME DEADY HALL

In 2017, on the recommendation of University President Michael Schill, the trustees retained the name Deady Hall. 

"He was quoted in our own document as saying, 'There are some millions of Africans owned as property in the United States. And whatever shallow brains or smattered much may say about property and man, they are just as much property as horses, cattle, and land,'" said Colas, citing the administration's 2016 report.  

"I was, I guess resolved in the decision that we made and I'm mad at myself for that."

At the time of the original decision, the University did rename Dunn Hall which was named for a classics professor that was also a member of the Klu Klux Klan. Work also began on the school's Black Cultural Center around that time as well. 

But things have changed since, with protests entering their second week across the country in the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer and Breonna Taylor's death at the hands of the Louisville police. It was at this time that Colas decided to reopen the discussion and put it to a vote. 

"Right now to be able to find that and read it, it's a liability to our university as a whole," Colas said of the findings in the initial report. 

Some students across the University of Oregon are similarly in support of a motion to change the name of Deady Hall. 

"We need to support our black students, our students of color," said graduate student Hannah Wellman. "That is one of the easiest ways we can do that and frankly I think the University needs to be doing a lot more than that."

Oregon student athlete Verone McKinley found out about the history of Deady Hall, and other buildings and symbols on campus just this week and has been active on social media with some of his teammates to get the names changed. 

"If you look at Oregon's history, there's a lot of white supremacist stuff and things kind of neglecting diversity," McKinley explains. "So we feel that now with Oregon being such a diverse community and using that history to not want to repeat itself that we should change these names."

In 1844, the Oregon territory reiterated their ban on slavery but introduced the Black Exclusion Act, which called on black and biracial settlers to leave Oregon territory within three years. Other buildings and symbols at the University are also under scrutiny including Hawthorne Hall, located in the Walton dormitory complex, which was named for a former Confederate officer who had participated in the Battle of Gettysburg. A mural at Knight Library, which calls for the conservation of national resources and "racial heritage" if the country is to survive, was subject of a petition that garned over 1,800 signatures online. 

McKinley believes that the buildings should remain, but should be renamed because of the progress that has been made in the times since those building dedications. 

"Keep everything around because it's historical and you don't want history to repeat itself but I feel like we've come so far so renaming it shows the strides we've made to become what we are now but to still have that history."

As it pertains to Deady Hall, the special meeting in the coming weeks will address whether or not the name will stay but it is unclear if other dedications such as the Knight Library mural or Hawthorne Hall will be mentioned. 

"I cannot accept a person that would see me and believe that I am as good as a horse, cattle and a piece of land," Colas said in an emphatic and passionate plea to Trustees on Thursday. 

McKinley says that even though difficult discussions are happening across homes, workplaces and public spaces in the United States, they are welcome ones to continue the forward march of progress. 

"Being a black man in America, I've alrady dealt with different situations and had talks with my dad and things like that. So now that everyone's awakened to it, it's good to see honestly."

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