If Monday night’s public meeting on renaming buildings at Oregon State University is any indication, the process likely will be a messy one.
Monday’s session was designed to acquaint the community with the process the university will use in deciding whether Arnold Dining Center, Avery Lodge, Benton Hall and Gill Coliseum will keep their names. Concerns have been raised as to whether the racial views of the four individuals whose names are on the buildings are consistent with university values.
Passions bubbled to the surface during the “facilitated conversation” that closed the evening at the Learning Innovation Center. Audience members interrupted each other, told each other to “shut up” and perhaps a dozen or so individuals walked out of the meeting.
During one exchange Steve Clark, OSU’s vice president of marketing and university relations advanced toward an audience member and said “would you like to answer her question for me?” after a series of interruptions.
Others among the student-dominated crowd of 125 people pleaded for understanding regarding why they feel the name changes are necessary.
"I don't care if 130 years ago something was acceptable," one audience member said. "I am so grateful we are getting this conversation going."
Key concerns raised by audience members were:
• Whether a process in which a committee forwards its recommendation to President Ed Ray for a final decision constitutes an open enough procedure.
• What the process will cost and who will pay for it.
• Whether there should be a mechanism for a vote on the issue.
• Whether the protests and class disruptions in the past week that have occurred at OSU involving students who favor the name changes have been helpful.
• Whether donors might wind up with more say in the decisions than others.
“This is an extremely hot issue,” said moderator Scott Vignos, director of strategic initiatives with OSU’s diversity office and co-chair of the Building and Place Name Advisory Committee. “Please be respectful, and we pledge to you that we will keep this conversation going.”
Vignos’ panel is a subset of the Architectural Naming Committee, which will do the actual evaluating of requests for name changes.
Clark noted that the process for each of the four buildings will take approximately 10 weeks and consist of a preliminary evaluation, a full evaluation if a decision is made to go forward with consideration of a name change and a final decision by President Ray. A decision on all four buildings should be made by the end of fall term, Clark said.
Audience members also suggested an appeals process for the decisions and also questioned whether a future OSU president might rescind decisions by Ray.
Vignos agreed that the concerns were valid and said the committee will consider them.