University of Oregon President Michael Schill condemned the tearing down of the controversial Pioneer and Pioneer Mother statues by protesters Saturday night, in an email sent out to students Monday afternoon.
“While I strongly believe in the power of peaceful protest and the right to free expression and dissent, I condemn these acts of destruction,” Schill said. “What happened Saturday evening was unacceptable.”
The Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Liberation Collective — a Eugene antiracist group — held a teach-in near Deady Hall last Saturday, educating a crowd of around 200 about Oregon’s racist history. Following the speeches, a separate group called for others to join in protesting the Pioneer statues. The group used pickaxes, sledgehammers and ropes to pull down the statues, and dragged the Pioneer statue up the steps of Johnson Hall, blocking the entrance.
Schill informed the UO Senate last week that the university would proceed with determining whether historic monuments and artwork on campus, including the Pioneer statues, should be taken down.
“I regret that we will no longer have the opportunity for that type of deliberative and inclusive process,” he said in the email. “Nevertheless, we need to move forward as a community.”
Schill said he would ask the Committee on Recognizing Our Diverse History — a presidential advisory board, according to its website — to explore, in partnership with UO’s museums, ways to display the Pioneer statues “in a manner that places them in appropriate historical context.” Schill said the statues will remain in storage and will not be restored to their original display on campus.
CRDH is composed of UO faculty, students and staff, according to its website. The committee advises Schill on the use of plaques to explain the historical context of on-campus buildings and artwork, as well as creating new statues to recognize prominent people related to UO with diverse backgrounds and developing guided campus tours to show the evolution of the university, the website states.
CRDH convened in March 2018 following the passage of the “Resolution Denouncing White Supremacy and Hate Speech on Campus” in January 2018. The committee is co-chaired by physics professor Dean Livelybrooks and Assistant Vice President for Campus and Community Engagement Lesley-Anne Pittard.
“These are incredibly difficult times,” Schill said in the email. “Removing or relocating a statue or a piece of art does not change the need for the hard work of confronting racism that is ahead of us as a nation, a state, and a university. I honestly do not know where exactly this will lead us, but I have to believe that something positive will come from all of this pain.”