A controversial Knight Library mural that students petitioned to take down last winter was vandalized, library employees say.

Library staff are not sure when the vandalism occurred but suspect that it happened sometime between the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 22 and the morning of Thursday, Aug. 23. They are also not sure if the vandalism caused any lasting damage to the mural, said Dean of Libraries Adriene Lim.

The mural, titled “The Mission of a University” was created in 1937 and reads: “The university process is a social process that does not stop short of transforming men… It means conservation and betterment not merely of our national resources but also of our racial heritage and of opportunity to the lowliest.”

Students last winter took issue with the phrase “racial heritage,” and their petition to take down the mural collected over 1,800 signatures.

The phrase “racial heritage” had smeared on what library officials say seems like red paint, and an index card was placed next to the mural, saying, “Which art do you choose to conserve now?”

“The Mission of a University” mural was vandalized, and the index card was left. (Emily Matlock / Emerald)

“The act of vandalism is an act of protest, and I understand that but we did have some processes going to try to contextualize the art and respond to it,” Lim said. “But I understand that people may not think that’s fast enough or enough.”

Some students who had initially petitioned the mural later worked with the library to establish a task force to collect student artwork to place alongside the mural before the library announced in May that it would not be removing the mural, saying that it could be a historical relic that the library may not even technically own.

The library will keep the placard in the University Archives “for consideration as an artifact of protest at the university,” according to a statement by Lim.

Security cameras are situated at the entrances of the library but are owned by the University of Oregon Police Department, which can review the camera footage, Lim said.

The Emerald will continue to report on this story as it develops.

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Ryan Nguyen is the podcast editor and an aspiring education reporter. He manages, produces and edits several Emerald Podcast Network programs a week. Previously, Nguyen covered student government as a news reporter.

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