This past week Oregon State University’s President Ed Ray released a statement condemning the violent and hateful acts in Charlottesville “in the strongest terms.” He even went as far as to do what our own President hasn’t done and denounce white supremacy, the KKK, Nazi’s and the values that they stand for. President Ray then goes on to talk about how we must come together and “guarantee inclusivity and safety for all.” This letter was to serve as a comfort to the OSU community and remind them of the inclusive values this sanctuary campus has. There is just one glaring problem with this letter… it is hypocritical. The hypocrisy lies in the fact that President Ed Ray is condemning hatred and racism in one area of the country but allowing it on his own campus.
Although Oregon considers itself a “blue” state, it’s history is filled with racism–even Oregon State University is not immune from this history. For example, Linus Pauling, an Oregon State icon, believed heavily in eugenics until the late 1970’s. Now, many people have defended Pauling’s intentions by saying they were merely rooted in his desire to prevent the spread of genetic diseases. Regardless, this is apart of his history and in some ways OSU’s history. This however was not the first example that popped into my mind, but rather an example that is more similar to Charlottesville than you would think.
The Charlottesville’s story begins with a group of individuals trying to take down the Robert E. Lee statue located in the city. The protests on both sides are rooted in conflict about this racist statue. We at OSU have a very similar racist “statue.” However, our statue is much bigger and much less conspicuous.
If you attended OSU and lived on campus, there is a high chance you have eaten at Arnold Dining Hall. The dining hall is named after Benjamin Lee Arnold a former Oregon State University President… and a confederate soldier from Virginia. Now regardless of what Arnold did for this University, his beginnings cannot be forgotten. We cannot pretend like serving in the Confederate Army is not a big deal. Some would even argue that his 3 months service is barely anything, but the reality is he served in an Army that defended slavery. Now although a dining hall is not a statue for all to be seen, think about the pain both inflict on people of color (POC). Students who identify as a person of color have to eat in a building named after someone who believed their ancestors were less than human and should have stayed slaves. Yet, we as a university have turned our backs on this problem and hide behind the email messages that proclaim we are a “progressive” campus.
At the end of the day, I thank President Ray for what he has said in this letter and done in the past for OSU. It is not always easy to be a government employee and rebel against the President of the United Stated and Ray has done that unapologetically since January. He has pushed for OSU and Corvallis to become a sanctuary campus and city, and pushed back against the Trump administration’s stance on Charlottesville. However, the reality is with Arnold Hall present on campus, it is hard to believe the narrative that we are inclusive and safe for all.
If we want to be the progressive school that we pride ourselves on being, then we must take our own advice and “guarantee inclusivity and safety for all.” Just because the cameras and attention is not on us does not mean we get to hide from what we are ignoring, and therefore promoting. When we have these names on campus we are telling our students of color that their pain isn’t valid, and that honoring our university’s history is more important. I understand that we can’t change our history, but we can promise to not honor the hatred and racism that plagues it. We must change the name of Arnold Hall, it’s that simple. We must learn from Charlottesville and remove the hatred. Now some may argue that the cost of a name change to Arnold Hall would be too great and the repercussions would harm students. I would then quickly remind these people that OSU spent over $100,000 to change a logo that didn’t offend anyone. Then they would argue that it was a marketing strategy to attract more students. To which I would reply that students aren’t going to care about a new logo while OSU ignores the needs of their students of color. The reality is that OSU spends money on things they find important, and it’s time changing Arnold Hall’s name be added to that list.
So President Ed Ray I applaud you for your words and your actions in the past, but I remind your that we cannot rely on our past actions to justify our current inaction.
This article is dedicated to all the brave souls lost in Charlottesville. May they rest in peace.