Guest Viewpoint: Deady Hall name must change

Deady Hall is named after Judge Matthew Deady, co-author of the Oregon State Constitution. (Creative Commons)

Correction on June 24: this story was updated to include the word "pain" in President Schill's quote.

The University of Oregon board of trustees voted unanimously to rename Deady Hall at their Wednesday meeting. The hall will be temporarily renamed University Hall until the board decides on a new title, according to UO President Michael Schill. 

“The protests in Eugene and across the globe demonstrate the need for us to acknowledge the death, pain and racism that has been inflicted on our Black brothers and sisters, and to commit ourselves to education, listening, action, as well as transformation,” Schill said.

The renaming comes after years of activism by UO students to rename Deady and other halls on campus named after people that held racist beliefs, most notably in 2015 when the Black Student Task Force released 12 demands to the university administration.

Schill spoke about the advances the university has made, including the creation of the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center and the renaming of Dunn Hall, adding that the university must build on that progress.

“As a university, we can play a very important role in creating societal change,” Schill said. 

Deady Hall is named after Matthew Deady, who served as the first president of the UO Board of Regents, as well as a pro-slavery delegate to the first Oregon constitutional convention. He once said that Black people were as much property as “horses, cattle and land,” according to quotes read by UO trustee Andrew Colas at a June 4 board of trustees meeting. 

Schill said that he would expand the responsibilities of the Committee on Recognizing our Diverse History — a presidential advisory board — to determine whether certain monuments  should be removed, as well as looking to add new monuments on campus.

On June 13, a group of activists tore down the Pioneer and Pioneer Mother statues, dragging the Pioneer statue up the front steps of Johnson Hall and blocking the entrance. Both statues remained controversial among campus activists for their racist origins.

Related: “Breaking: Protesters tear down pioneer statues after Deady Hall protest” 

Schill said he would also ask UO faculty to create “an appropriate learning experience” to describe both Deady and his legacy in Oregon.

Student member Katharine Wishnia said there is no reason that it would be acceptable to leave Deady Hall with its current name, and that no one wants to walk into a building named after a racist man.

“We need to stand in solidarity with Black students not just during these events and this time, but 24/7,” Wishnia said. “It is the job of the university to satisfy the needs of students and at this point, without renaming Deady Hall, I’m unsure if we are fulfilling that standard.” 

Multiple trustees voiced their support for the renaming. Colas thanked his fellow trustees and Schill for their support. “Everything that I do is all about the next generation,” he said, “so I take my responsibility for any board that I sit on, as far as being a leader, to make the world a better place for kids that aren’t here right now, and I think this is an opportunity for us.”

Colas originally requested the vote at a June 4 meeting, in the light of national anti-racist protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Oregon public meeting laws require advance notice on votes, prohibiting the board from being able to vote on renaming at that meeting.

Duncan is an associate news editor for the Daily Emerald. Previously, he was the crime reporter. He likes buying books he'll never read, true crime and Superman.