Guest Viewpoint: Deady Hall name must change

This piece reflects the views of the author and not those of Emerald Media Group. It was originally submitted by the UO Black Student Task Force to members of the Emerald staff on Feb. 13. It has been edited by the Emerald for grammar and style. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to [email protected]

The University of Oregon’s mission statement, in part, reads, “We value our diversity and seek to foster equity and inclusion in a welcoming, safe, and respectful community.”

How can we, as black students, feel welcome, safe and respected on a campus with buildings that honor men like Judge Matthew Deady, co-author of the Oregon State Constitution and one of the most influential supporters of Oregon’s Exclusion Laws? We have a right to the same sense of comfort and opportunity to succeed as all students.

The fact that we must have this discussion in 2016 is embarrassing. At the same time that administrators are telling us ad nauseum how they want the UO to be considered a top research institution, we still have to explain why it’s to the university’s benefit to stop celebrating Oregon’s racist history.

It’s no secret the UO is trying to recruit more diverse students. The rhetoric is endless and no matter what’s happening on campus, you can always count on a picture of a smiling, black success story to plaster on the school website.

However, diversity is about more than recruiting strategies and photo-ops. It’s about serving the needs of the students currently on campus. For all the inequities UO has to address, changing the name of Deady Hall seems like an easy place to start.

There is no way to get around Deady’s racist history. This man was considered the “point man for slavery” in Oregon. He went on to be a catalyst behind Oregon’s Exclusion Laws, which in part, read, “No free negro or mulatto not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall come, reside or be within this state or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the legislative assembly shall provide by penal laws for the removal by public officers of all such negroes and mulattoes.”

As free black students, we would not have been allowed to enter Deady Hall. That legacy can never be separated from the name.

Recently, an editorial in the Register Guard argued that Deady atoned for his anti-black racism by advocating for Chinese immigrants. First, that doesn’t change the fact that his policies continuously aimed to exclude blacks. Second, to lump blacks and Chinese immigrants together as if all non-white people are the same is insulting to both groups.

A true commitment to diversity incorporates the input of marginalized communities. To that end, the Black Student Task Force is offering its input on the renaming of Deady Hall, a decision that can only positively affect recruiting and retention at the UO going forward.

Standing with the Black Student Union, the Black Women of Achievement, Black Male Alliance, students in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, the Alliance of Graduate Students for Diversity, the UO Senate and numerous students and professors, we are far from alone.

We demand the UO change the name of Deady Hall by Fall 2016, both so it can create a more comfortable, productive learning environment for current black students and show prospective students and others throughout the country that the UO can be a leader in campus equity.

Throughout the process, we want to be informed of the names being considered and have input in the final decision. We also want to include a landmark explaining why the name of the hall was changed.

This is far from unprecedented. As noted in a December Register Guard editorial titled “Defending Deady doesn’t change his racist past,” the UO removed a sexist plaque from the Erb Memorial Union following student complaints in 1986. The UO also renamed Grayson Hall to McKenzie Hall in 2002 after the building’s namesake was federally indicted for embezzlement. Considering this history, actively working to ban blacks from the state would seem like a worthy offense for changing the name of a building.

President Schill has stated, “student success requires a supportive and safe community.” In order to embody this statement and provide an equitable and safe campus climate for black students, it is important that we act now.

As black students we demand that the UO no longer place this burden on us. However, if there is no momentum on the renaming of Deady Hall, our organization along with our allies will mobilize.

The UO is our university. We have every right to feel welcome, safe and respected.


UO Black Student Task Force, comprised of black graduate and undergraduate students of the University of Oregon

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