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OSU To Evaluate Buildings Whose Namesakes Had Racist Views

In a letter to the Oregon State University community Wednesday, university president Ed Ray announced the university will hold community meetings to evaluate building names after students, faculty, alumni and members of the Corvallis community raised concerns over racist views held by the buildings’ namesakes.

The university first announced it would evaluate the building names last school year, but the announcement to complete the review this fall happens in the midst of heightened discussions nationwide about the role of historical monuments in commemorating painful parts of U.S. history.

Charlottesville, Missouri, Washington, D.C., New Orleans — it is a nationwide self-evaluation. And we are certainly part of that,” said Steve Clark, vice president for university relations at OSU.

The buildings are Avery Lodge, named after the co-founder of a pro-slavery newspaper; Arnold Dining Center, named after a Confederate Army soldier; Benton Hall, named after a white supremacist; and Gill Coliseum, named after a former OSU basketball coach who resisted racial integration of the men’s basketball team.

In a letter, Ray said the university’s Office of Institutional Diversity, the OSU Architectural Naming Committee and a special Building and Place Name Evaluation work group will conduct a “full and transparent historical review” of the four buildings.

“Whether a building’s name is changed or not, it is important to learn from our history and permanent educational plaques and displays will be created to contextualize the history of each building and its name,” Ray said in the letter.

The university will also hold community dialogue sessions Sept. 28 and Oct. 2. Ray said he will announce his decision about what to do about the names Nov. 27. 

“This is an example of how students and community members take stock — in this case of Oregon State — or of how they take stock of communities in which they live elsewhere and they get involved,” said Clark.

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