UA Letter to President Schill regarding the denaming of Deady and Dunn Hall

Dear President Schill,

On behalf of the Executive Council of United Academics and the undersigned faculty, I write to urge you to dename both Deady Hall and Dunn Hall.

As you say in your letter to the campus community, the report submitted to you by the selected historians is sobering. During their lives, both Matthew Deady and Frederick Dunn sponsored, affirmed, and enforced laws and policies that discriminated against people based on their race, ethnicity, and/or religion.

One of the main intents of naming buildings is to honor the men and women for which they are named. The people for whom we name our buildings should be men and women who not only have a connection our campus, but are also men and women who we believe our students should seek to emulate.

Because of their discriminatory actions and troubling moral choices, Matthew Deady and Frederic Dunn are not men we should honor, nor are they men we should ask our students to emulate.

Some opponents of denaming have sought to absolve Deady and Dunn by arguing that it would be unfair to them to judge them by the standards and mores of today. But the question of the morality of slavery and its place as an American institution has been fiercely debated since the founding of the nation. No territorial politician in 1857, the year Deady ran on the pro-slavery ticket for the Oregon Constitutional Convention, was unaware of this debate. Deady’s white supremacy was neither uninformed nor incidental. Deady advocated and politicked for an all-white Oregon, denigrating non-white people. As the historians’ report states, “Deady’s remarks display clearly his comfort expressing hardened racial views in the 1850s, which he continued to voice until the outbreak of Civil War. “

In their summary of Deady’s life, the historians note that Deady’s pro-slavery and anti-black positions were not out of step with the majority of his fellow Oregonians. Yet, they were moral choices made by a man who grasped their meaning. Whether to be pro-slavery or anti-slavery was the major moral question of Deady’s day and many people, including many Oregonians, recognized the inherent evil in the system of humans owning other humans. Many citizens, including many Oregonians, shortly thereafter fought and died to end slavery in America. Deady was not merely on the wrong side of history from the perspective of today, he made a hateful moral choice by the standards of his own time.

Frederick Dunn was an Exalted Cyclops in the Ku Klux Klan. This fact should speak for itself and immediately render Dunn unacceptable as a person the university would seek to honor. Not only by the standards of today, but by the standards of the 1920s, the KKK was a malignant organization. The historians’ report points to the large opposition to the Klan in Eugene and quotes the Daily Emerald to this effect, “The University campus is no more a place for the white robed Ku Klux Klan, than is the great state of Oregon… Such an organization as this must never be countenanced on a college campus.” This was true in the 1920s and it is true today. We cannot honor a man who led the Klan in our city and on our campus.

Opponents of denaming make another argument as well: that letting the names remain will provide an opportunity for students to be educated about and engage with Oregon’s racist past. Such a position is offensive and condescending.

One of the main points the Black Student Task Force has made is that racism, both individual and systematic, is a feature of life at the University of Oregon for them every day. The students of color at the University of Oregon do not need buildings named after men with a history of white supremacy to know about discrimination and racism in Oregon. They live it every day.

We teach, live, work and learn on a majority white campus. When our students of color raise their voices to bravely talk about the isolation and oppression they feel here, we should listen and act where we can. We must not find reasons and excuses to dismiss or minimize their distress. Denaming these buildings costs the majority very little, it is imperative that we do so.

We support the calls to rename these buildings and to add plaques noting the buildings’ former names, providing a history of the men they used to honor, and explaining why the campus community chose to rename the building.

Sincerely,
Michael Dreiling
President, United Academics of the University of Oregon

*Letter submitted on August 24 with over 100 faculty signatures.

Posted in Updates.