Oregon State University officials are expected to announce this week whether four campus buildings will be renamed over allegations their namesakes were racists.
The expected announcement follows a series of meetings this fall on the legacy of the namesakes and a months-long process by a team of scholars of researching the histories of these namesakes.
This review process was itself developed over a course of a year to provide OSU President Ed Ray with information upon which to base his decisions about whether to rename any of the four buildings in question: Arnold Dining Center, Avery Lodge, Benton Hall and Gill Coliseum.
Steve Clark, OSU vice president of university relations and marketing, said last week that the university plans to announce Ray’s decision this week, likely Monday or Tuesday.
“President Ray will provide a presidential communication to the OSU community that will be very complete. We will do outreach to stakeholders and alumni. We will be issuing a news release. And publish a report that will be on the website, which will feature an executive summary followed by the various reports generated through this process,” Clark said.
Clark said around 375 people provided feedback for the decisions. In addition to a series of six meetings on both the process for evaluating the names and the history of the building names, the university allowed people to make comments online. The meetings were attended by current OSU students, alumni, Corvallis residents and, particularly in the meeting about former basketball coach Amory “Slats” Gill, former student athletes.
The meetings that focused on the four buildings under consideration consisted of small group discussions, with facilitators to steer the conversations and note takers to record comments. Some at the meetings argued some of the names should be changed because of the history of the namesakes, while others questioned whether the evidence was sufficient to rename a building. Others said they didn’t think it was fair to apply current values to people living in eras with different values.
Clark said the university has spent more than $16,000 over ten months on the review of the building names, including historical reports, video streaming, room rentals, posters to promote the public meetings and other related expenses. However, that figure does not include staff time.
The renaming of the four buildings was the focus of a series of student protests early in the year. However, by that point a committee working under Clark already had been working for around a year to develop a process for evaluating the names of buildings that OSU community members believed did not represent the university’s contemporary values.
Larry Landis, OSU’s director of the Special Collections & Archives Research Center, was co-chair of that committee. Landis said around that time that the community concerns about the four building names were known before the student protests, and the committee’s plan was to evaluate them first.