University of Oregon community reacts to Deady Hall denaming

The building will be renamed University Hall while the Board of Trustees begins the procedure of finding new name candidates.

Posted: Jun 25, 2020 6:42 PM
Updated: Jun 25, 2020 7:24 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- There is no more Deady Hall. The signs are covered and the name Deady Hall on the plaque signifying the building as a national historical landmark has been taped over.

It brings to an end a debate that reached prominence in 2016, but one that has been felt for longer than that. 

"It was a word of mouth thing," said University of Oregon alumnus Blair Barnes, who served in the student government during the first debate over Deady Hall. "Everyone pretty much knew. I would say the difference was Black students felt more -- this problem was a bit more personal to us."

"It's a good step but this has been something that's been on everyone's mind before I came into the ASUO. Like 2015, early 2016, before I even thought -- knew -- that activism was a thing, this was being talked about."

James Vos was also a student at the time and feels that while the opportunity is welcome now, the chance to make a true statement was missed back in 2016. At the time, and on a recommendation from University President Michael Schill, the Board of Trustees opted to keep Matthew Deady as the building namesake. In his recommendation, President Schill argued that the work of Matthew Deady's later life, such as his advocacy for Chinese immigration and his role in helping found the university, outweighed his pro slavery stances earlier in life. 

"It was wrong to let it pass you by back then, in 2016," Vos said. "Like we're not so far removed from that. You kind of make the decision knowing full well you're gonna have to go all the way and do it eventually. So why not do it?"

But many feel there is something different about this moment in history that is driving these decisions. University Trustee Andrew Colas brought the decision back to the attention of the board at the beginning of the month, stating that he didn't feel good with the decision then, and he didn't now.

"I feel like people are thinking ever so slightly more critically," Vos explained. "I don't want to give the world too much credit because there is so much more work to do and so much more work against it as well. But I think there's a willingness to read things in their full."

The University of Oregon is one of many colleges that is reexamining the history and symbolism of their building namesakes. In Mississippi, student athletes and college football coaches are helping lead the charge towards changing the state flag. But the decisions are still being met with skepticism, due to the political expediency of many of these choices. 

"Institutions around the country and they're all renaming their buildings and acknowledging colonization and it's effects," Barnes follows up. "And I think because it's such a trend, folks are looking at this like why now? You know?"

At the most recent Board of Trustees meeting, President Schill addressed his change of recommendation from 2016. He also explained the need to contextualize history in its' totality.

"I'm mindful of another principle that could be weakened of a vote of the board to remove Matthew Deady's name from Deady Hall," Schill said. "And that principle is that we need to learn from history and not cover it up. It is embedded not just within the buildings of history but within people who do important things like found a university. We need to make sure that future generations know who Matthew Deady was, who did great good for our state and our university, but also a man that supported causes and ideologies that were abhorrent."

"It's now apparent to me that as long as Matthew Deady's name remains in a place of honor on our campus, our black students and other students of color will not feel valued."

President Schill also said he would ask UO faculty to create "an appropriate learning experience on campus to describe Judge Deady and his legacy."

Trustee Andrew Colas also released a statement of his own following the announcement that Deady Hall would be denamed while awaiting another meeting to discuss new names. 

"This decision is a big step in the right direction for the University of Oregon," Colas said in his statement. "There is significant work ahead, but it starts with recognizing the important contributions Black people have made and how critical their success, freedom and well-being factors into everyone else's."

As of right now, the next steps are still to be determined, but Vos and Barnes have some ideas as to whom they would like to see be honored on one of the school's oldest and most distinguished buildings. 

"I think having a Black woman named in place of Deady would be tremendous and I think would serve the people justice," Barnes said. "A Black woman that has been integral to the success of Black folks and other folks that look to us for inspiration."

Vos mentioned former University of Oregon educator and civil rights activist Dr. Edwin Coleman II, who was one of the leading Black voices in Eugene and a major supporter of the Black Student Union and Black Student Task Force. 

As people weigh the dilemma of personal growth juxtaposed against a wonder of what took so long, Barnes hopes to see introspection of the privileged help drive the engine for change at the highest levels. 

"The time is now to kind of go against these systems and really ask yourself what's your contribution to the structure that you sit upon."

51° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 51°
48° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 48°
50° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 50°
North Bend
53° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 53°
KEZI Radar
KEZI Temperatures
KEZI Planner


Community Events