Guest Viewpoint

(Maisie Plew/Emerald)

This piece reflects the views of the Black Student Task Force, 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 editor@dailyemerald.com.

On November 17, 2015, we, the University of Oregon Black Student Task Force, delivered a list of 12 demands to the UO administration, aiming to address the lack of academic equity that exists for African American students. Subsequently, we participated in every stage of the renaming process, including (but not limited to) serving on the renaming committee, helping outline the renaming criteria, helping select the historians that commissioned a 34-page historical report on Matthew Deady, and serving on every committee.

On November 27, 2017, we elucidated that we were disheartened and stunned by UO President Michael Schill’s decision to retain the name of Deady Hall. That sting has continued to persist. Despite this persistence, along with countlessly being told “times have changed” and how our experience is “different” from those of our 2015 predecessors, we have continued to cordially and professionally go about our business of making sure our demands are met. We have also worked diligently to monitor the demands that have been met to ensure their implementation meets our demands’ foundational intent and offers access and success for African American students.

On November 9, 2020, UO trustee member Andrew Colas offered resounding support to rename Deady Hall and for the UO administration to meet our original demand. We thank Mr. Colas and are unequivocally united in our support for him. If there is anyone who sits at a table of influence who can understand the daily experiences and proverbial shoes African American students walk in, it is Mr. Colas.

On June 10, 2020, UO President Schill recommended renaming Deady Hall. Among many reasons, President Schill explained the cause to reverse his original decision as “everything and, unfortunately, very little.” In other words, the African American experience as a whole, the climate of UO, and the needs of African American students have not changed. This is why our list of demands continues to be pertinent and imperative.

While President Schill’s decision to rename Deady Hall has been met with disapproval by some, and considered five years too late by many, it is the correct decision. Thus, we acknowledge President Schill for taking this action of African American inclusivity and recommending Deady Hall to be renamed without fear or favor.

On Wednesday, June 24, 2020, the UO board of trustees voted unanimously to rename Deady Hall. With this decision, the board of trustees sits on the right side of history. We thank and acknowledge Mr. Colas for helping make the renaming of Deady Hall the forefront of the board of trustees’ agenda.

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In these contentious times, when so many utilize African American history and killings of African American people for the economic and academic gain of non-African American people, it is imperative for the UO administration to stay focused on our list of demands, to continue to engage with us, and to bring our unmet demands to fruition.

For African Americans, liberty and freedom was not simply given — it was earned. President Abraham Lincoln did not free a single enslaved African American — they freed themselves. Today, we ask UO and every community to acknowledge that Deady Hall was not merely renamed by UO administrators; it was renamed because of the tenacity and hard work of the Black Student Task Force and the brave voice of Mr. Colas. If history has taught us anything, it is that African Americans must receive the acknowledgement of the liberty and freedom we have earned.

In supporting the UO board of trustees’ decision to rename Deady Hall, we stand united with each and every African American student organization and general members of the leadership at our university.

In solidarity,

UO Black Student Task Force

The UO Black Student Task Force is a group of Black students who are committed to utilizing its list of demands and giving Black students equitable access to academic success.