Dunn Hall renaming follows national trend
Yesterday, the UO Board of Trustees unanimously voted to strip Dunn Hall of its name.
“Taking people’s names off buildings is something we should do very, very carefully,” Schill said while addressing the board on Thursday. “It’s very dangerous to obscure history.”
The decision marks the University of Oregon as the third university in a recent trend to rename a campus building due to its name’s historically racist ties.
In May 2015, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill renamed a building known formerly as Saunders Hall because of Saunders’ relations to the Klu Klux Klan. Saunders is known as the head of the KKK in North Carolina, according to a News&Observer article.
UNC students protested for about a year before the school voted to rename the building, the article also stated. After renaming Saunders Hall, UNC enacted a 16 year ban on renaming any other buildings, causing unrest from part the UNC community.
Georgetown University also renamed two of its buildings, Mulledy Hall and McSherry Hall last year. Both individuals, whom the buildings were named after, are weighed down with a history of slave trading.
Mulledy and McSherry, both former presidents of Georgetown, sold 272 slaves to a plantation in 1838 to partially pay for the school’s debt, according to an article from The Hoya.
In Nov. 2015, Georgetown students staged a sit-in outside of the school president’s office. Fifty students showed up, according to a Washington Post article. The article stated that it took about five months to rename the buildings after the first request from student protestors to rename the building.
“Queen Adesuyi, a Georgetown senior who helped organize the demonstration and sit-in, said activists ‘used the momentum’ from student protests on other campuses to build support for the name changes,” the Washington Post reported.
Other universities, such as Yale, are receiving pressure from students to rename buildings with a racist namesake.
Yale President Peter Salvoes established a committee to develop principals to determine a protocol for renaming a building. Yale’s Calhoun College is named after former U.S. senator and vice president – and slavery supporter – John C. Calhoun, according to a Wall Street Journal article.
Audio: UO President Schill talks about his decision to rename Dunn Hall in a speech to the Board of Trustees on Sept. 8. The board then votes on the motion (at 11:57).
University of Oregon’s Dunn Hall was named after Frederic Dunn, who was born in 1872 in Eugene, Oregon. Dunn attended UO for two degrees and served as a Latin professor until 1935. But his history at the UO is tainted with racism.
“While little is known of Dunn’s personal views, it is clear that he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and served as the Exalted Cyclops (leader) of Eugene Klan No. 3 in the 1920s,” Schill stated in an open letter to students regarding renaming Dunn Hall.
Part of Schill’s process for determining his recommendation included assembling a panel of three historians to investigate Matthew Deady and Dunn’s histories, after which, they produced a 34 page report.
Schill then opened a comment period from Aug. 9 through Aug. 24, allowing the UO community to weigh-in on the decision to change the names of the buildings. Nearly 1,000 comments were received, according to Schill.
“The way the comments ran was essentially … people felt very strongly that Dunn Hall should be de-named, and they were pretty split on Deady Hall,” Schill said to the board.
Schill wrote an open letter on Sept. 1, in which he established a set of principals to be used as guidelines for determining to rename Dunn Hall, and delay renaming Deady Hall until more input was received.
“Denaming a building has a strong symbolic impact. Symbols are less important than actions…” Schill said at the Board of Trustees meeting. “It’s what we do in the present that’s important.”
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