This piece reflects the views of Adie Bovee, and not those of Emerald Media Group. The Emerald has lightly edited this piece for grammar, clarity and style. Send letters, op-eds or pieces about campus issues or our reporting to email@example.com.
Dear President Schill,
As a University of Oregon alumnus, I am appalled by your public response to the pioneer statues on campus being torn down by righteously furious protesters empowered by what is arguably the largest social uprising in the U.S. that either of us have witnessed. I don’t need to tell you that a hugely important part of this uprising has been the toppling of monuments to white supremacy and colonialism across the country and all over the world. You already know this. But for some reason, you seem to think that your precious campus should be an exception to this moment.
You claim to agree that something needed to happen with these statues. In your official statement, you said, “Last week I told the University Senate that the institution would move forward with a process of determining whether the Pioneer statues—as well as other historic monuments and artwork on campus that may be viewed as symbols of oppression—should be taken down.” But the reality here is pretty simple. You took too long. Your predecessors took too long. If you had acted sooner, rather than waiting until your hand was forced, you never would have been in this position. Now you’re dealing with the consequences. I’m sorry, but I am just not sorry. You said, “I regret that we will no longer have the opportunity for that type of deliberative and inclusive process. Nevertheless, we need to move forward as a community.” Let me ask you this: What about these statues having been torn down prevents a deliberate, inclusive process from taking place? If you were actually committed to this project you would know that it can still happen. You might even realize that the people who got the point of being so infuriated and so empowered as to actually tear down the statues should be a part of that process, rather than excluded from it.
In your statement you also said, “One of the long-standing challenges with the pioneer statues was their lack of contextualization and materials to fully explain their complicated meaning—both good and bad.” Here’s the thing: You don’t get to control the context of these colonial relics or their complicated meanings. Part of the context of these statues, whether you like it or not, is the uprising we’re in the middle of. The fact that these statues were torn down has everything to do with their context, and the fact that they were laid at your feet is part of their story. That story might be a harder one for you to tell now—one that requires confronting your own shortcomings more completely—but there is nothing lost here. You should be proud that members of your community felt empowered to demand something better, but instead, you are opting to be one more white man in a position of power policing the boundaries of what is proper protest.
I hope that you will issue a new statement about the pioneer statues that thanks the people that tore down the pioneer statues for their willingness to demand a better future now. I hope that you will use your power to ensure that theCommittee on Recognizing our Diverse History incorporates recognition of the history happening now—the history of an uprising that is no longer willing to wait. Lastly, I hope that you will match the offer that Professor Michael Hames-García, Professor of Indigenous, Race, and Ethnic Studies, Faculty Director for the Latinx Scholars ARC, and UAUO Vice President for Equity and Diversity, has received from another institution. Demonstrating financial intent to keep Professor Hames-García here at the U of O is a way to make real your professed commitment to “provide students with the tools to dismantle racism.”
Adie Bovee grew up in Eugene and studied Ethnic Studies at the University of Oregon. She currently lives in Portland and works as an indexer of academic texts.