At Oregon State, community members have raised concerns over a period of years regarding several university buildings whose namesakes may have held or espoused racist or otherwise exclusionary views. These community members pose the question: “What does it mean for OSU to value equity and inclusion if individuals after whom its buildings are named did not?”
The process of evaluating the names of buildings provides an opportunity for our community to examine our history, and reconcile the past with the present.
Buildings and places play an important role in how OSU community members interact with our university. They are spaces for education and inquiry and are symbolic of the knowledge, understanding, and comprehension we seek. While OSU community members are often asked to engage with uncomfortable, difficult and sometimes offensive ideas to grow through critical thinking, the environment in which this occurs matters.
The university plays an important role when it names a building or place. On occasion, the university expresses gratitude to individuals who contribute to the university’s mission and live out its values by placing their name on a building or place. One of the values at Oregon State is the importance of equity and inclusion – our mission is to create an environment that respects and affirms the dignity, value and uniqueness of all individuals and communities. The experience of the environment can be informed by building and place names.
If a decision is made to change the name of a building, OSU will engage in a process to select a new name for the building. Additionally, the university will create permanent educational information so that current and future community members will be able to learn about the building’s previous name and namesake, how and why the decision to change the building’s name was made, and why the new name was chosen. This permanent education could be in the form of a plaque, exhibit, website or other mediums.
If a decision is made to not change the name of a building, the name of the building will remain, but the university will create and place permanent educational information so that current and future community members will be able to learn about the building’s name and history of its namesake, why the name was evaluated, and why a decision was made to leave the name. This permanent education could be in the form of a plaque, exhibit, website or other mediums.
Recommendations for naming buildings and places within Oregon State University are provided to the OSU Architectural Naming Committee (ANC), which reviews the request against general established naming considerations. Upon deciding whether the recommended name meets general OSU criteria, the ANC makes a name recommendation to Oregon State’s president, who has been authorized by the OSU Board of Trustees to decide the names of university buildings and places.
The ANC is appointed by OSU’s president to represent the broad interests of the university community. Members presently include the provost and executive vice president; the vice president for University Relations and Marketing, who serves as the ANC chair; the vice president for Finance and Administration; the ASOSU vice president; the president and CEO of the OSU Foundation; and the university’s government relations director.
While there may be some common knowledge, as well as factual pieces of information, already available to the public about a building namesake’s history, each building under consideration for renaming will undergo an in-depth historical review by a team of scholars consisting of both OSU faculty and an external scholar, based on the renaming criteria. The information gathered and synthesized will be made publicly available.
A building’s name may be considered for change again if new material and information come to light indicating that the actions or views of a building’s namesake are inconsistent with the university’s mission and values.
Evaluating the names of buildings and places is one of part of a larger effort to create a more welcoming educational environment for communities underrepresented in higher education and all students at OSU. The creation of the Office of Institutional Diversity -- charged with leading and implementing collaborative efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion throughout all facets of Oregon State University -- is one part of a significant effort that includes units and departments from across OSU.
Information about who receives a request for renaming is illustrated below.
Information about how an initial request for building naming is considered and whether and when it becomes public is illustrated below.
A name evaluation request may be submitted any time the actions or viewpoints of an individual for whom a building or place is named may be considered inconsistent with OSU’s mission to create an equitable, inclusive and diverse educational environment.
A building’s name can be considered for change again if new material and information are included as part of the renaming evaluation request submission process.
The input of community members will be very important to decisions made about the current buildings under review.
Community engagement will occur in many ways.
An initial session, which will be offered twice, will focus on building understanding around why evaluating the names of university buildings and places is important, valuable and aligned with our values while demonstrating how we build and define community through reconciliation and navigating difficult conversations.
The remaining four sessions will focus on each of the buildings under review -- Arnold Dining Center, Avery Lodge, Benton Hall and Gill Coliseum -- to present historical information regarding the namesakes, and gather input aligned with the evaluation criteria as to whether to rename the buildings and how best to educate the community about the buildings’ namesakes.
Through the community engagement process, the university aims to:
An effective community engagement process will meet these outcomes.
Transparency is an essential part of the evaluation process. These FAQs and website will be updated regularly as the evaluation process moves forward. The community engagement sessions will be recorded and posted on this website. Additionally, documents, including historical reports and information, considered by the Architectural Naming Committee, Building and Place Name Evaluation Workgroup and President Ray in reaching decisions on each of the building names will be posted and made available for review.
You will have many opportunities to get involved, including:
President Ray will fully review the materials gathered by historians regarding the four buildings and their namesakes. He will fully review input on these buildings and their names provided by members of the OSU community and stakeholders. He will observe the video recordings and streamings of the meetings held, and, as his schedule allows, attend and observe community engagement sessions. He will meet with Building and Place Name Evaluation Workgroup and the Architectural Naming Committee to receive their recommendations regarding the names of these buildings.
OSU has a long history of community involvement in discussing important issues. The university also shares governance of many matters with the university’s Faculty Senate and elected student organizations on the Corvallis and OSU-Cascades campuses. In the case of deciding building and places names, this authority has been delegated to the university’s president by the OSU Board of Trustees.
The university’s Board of Trustees has delegated naming decisions to the President. The Board has the authority to amend the delegation.
Input from members of the greater OSU community, the Building and Place Names Evaluation Workgroup and the ANC, along with the research findings of team of scholars, will be listened to and taken into account.
The costs of renaming a building will be paid for from the university’s general fund budget.
You may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also email Steve Clark, vice president for university relations and marketing, and chair of the Architectural Naming Committee, or Charlene Alexander, vice president and chief diversity officer.