Pres Schill draws sigh of relief as sensible vandals rid UO of troublesome statues

President Schill’s email this morning:

Dear University of Oregon community,

There is no question we are living in a moment when our nation is painfully coming to grips with the reality of systemic racism that has been woven into the fabric of our society for generations. Racism exists despite the bloody battles of the Civil War, despite protections guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments, despite the hard-fought victories of the Civil Rights movement, and despite more recent efforts of individuals and institutions to consciously promote diversity and inclusion. Events of the last few weeks have sadly demonstrated that racists in our country still kill Black people and other people of color. Racism still endures within our nation’s power structure, and racism still keeps Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian people from equal access to health care, education, justice, economic prosperity, and so much more. People are angry, people are hurt, people are enraged.

On Saturday, what some consider to be symbols of racism and oppression on our campus were targeted by an anonymous group of protestors. Both the Pioneer and Pioneer Mother statues were torn from their pedestals and vandalized in dramatic fashion. While I strongly believe in the power of peaceful protest and the right to free expression and dissent, I condemn these acts of destruction. What happened Saturday evening was unacceptable.

Last week I told the University Senate that the institution would move forward with a process of determining whether the Pioneer statues—as well as other historic monuments and artwork on campus that may be viewed as symbols of oppression—should be taken down. I regret that we will no longer have the opportunity for that type of deliberative and inclusive process. Nevertheless, we need to move forward as a community.

One of the long-standing challenges with the Pioneer statues was their lack of contextualization and materials to fully explain their complicated meaning—both good and bad. Therefore, I will ask the Committee on Recognizing Our Diverse History to work with our museums to explore permanent installations or other opportunities to exhibit the statues in a manner that places them in appropriate historical context. In the meantime, the statues have both been put into storage. Neither statue will go back to their previous places of prominence on campus. [emphasis added]

These are incredibly difficult times. Removing or relocating a statue or a piece of art does not change the need for the hard work of confronting racism that is ahead of us as a nation, a state, and a university. I honestly do not know where exactly that will lead us, but I have to believe that something positive will come from all of this pain. As an institution, we will continue to listen, seek understanding, and find meaningful ways to recognize and strengthen communities of color. We will redouble our efforts and explore new ways to support diversity and inclusion among students, faculty, and staff and bolster ally-ship on the University of Oregon campus. We must and we will.

Sincerely, Michael H. Schill
President and Professor of Law

Back in Jan 2018 the UO Senate passed resolution 17/18-06, which included this:

… 1.11 WHEREAS the UO campus still prominently displays signs and monuments that glorify white colonization and domination, while failing to do enough to honor the work and sacrifices made for justice and equity; and

… 2.3 BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that we request that the University President in consultation with the Senate President and student leaders, convene an ad hoc task force comprised of members from all campus constituencies to discuss, identify and propose campus education about the UO’s history as it relates to diversity and inclusivity, as well as recommend changes, modifications and additions to spaces and monuments which still narrate the campus along the lines of white supremacist mythologies.

Note that this task force was not charged with considering whether or not to *remove* the Pioneer Mother and Father – just with how they might be modified, with such things as interpretive plaques etc. Schill would not appoint a presidential task force if it was allowed to consider removal of the statues, because of virulent opposition from some wealthy alumni. I encouraged the Senate to go along with the weak charge above, seeing no point to a Senate-only committee that would be actively opposed by President Schill. In short, I was a coward.

Even the modest goal of adding interpretive information about the statues was never done, as will surprise no one who has tried to get a committee to do anything, and which I’m sure was not a surprise to Schill – who made no effort to push along his committee’s work. Apparently they never even wrote a report. Now President Schill is – you guessed it – establishing a new committee to spread the blame for whatever happens next. It will be interesting to see who will be willing to join such a committee.

For a pretty clear explanation of the racism behind the statues, or at least the Pioneer Father, read the paper by UO History grad student Marc James Carpenter for the Oregon Historical Society, here. The abstract:

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17 Responses to Pres Schill draws sigh of relief as sensible vandals rid UO of troublesome statues

  1. anon and on and on says:

    In addition to Carpenter’s report, he gave a talk for the Humanities Center on May 29th about his work on pioneer monuments and the way we’ve pretty systematically ‘forgotten’ the violence of the PNW past through monuments and text, even in academic circles. If you want to watch it, it’s available here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBtafLDsJuo

    • UOMatters says:

      I’m only about half-way through this talk, but I recommend it for anyone who is truly curious about what it took for the pioneers to seize the PNW from its original citizens, and how they managed to spin the theft & massacres of women & children into a story of heroic westward ho. Well-documented history, comparing the crimes pioneers admitted to in their private journals with what they redacted and revised before publishing. And for those afraid of the lingo of current historical theory, I’ve heard none of it so far – every word is easily understandable, even to an economist.
      .
      Thanks for posting this link. Thanks to Mr. Carpenter for doing the research and making it accessible.

    • IDK says:

      I remember back in 2002 I was one of 29% who voted against the white washing of the Oregon Constitution when we removed all the racists and anti-immigrant passages that were part of Oregon’s history. I thought at the time that it was the video’s point 4 “Erasure of Violence” (History). The passing logic for Measure 14/2002 at the time was that you could look it up if you wanted to. It is true that this little gem is still findable, lacking context andIF YOU KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR: {“No free negro, or mulatto, not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall come, reside, or be within this State, or hold any real estate,” reads a provision in the Oregon Constitution from 1857.}.
      https://www.theintelligencer.com/news/article/Oregon-s-Racist-Language-Faces-Vote-10487849.php

      The thought at the time was that there was more harm done by leaving the words in the constitution. I felt that since we do not remove all stale and repealed laws that the differential treatment spotlighted the real purpose which was to make the white majority feel better and/or not have to deal with the racist past in what is a very conspicuous place.

  2. Glad I quit UO and the democrats says:

    “There is no question we are living in a moment when our nation is painfully coming to grips with the reality of systemic racism that has been woven into the fabric of our society for generations.”

    Actually, this assertion is very questionable. What happened to critical thinking skills in public universities? What happened to the seeking of truth for truth’s sake? What happened to the free and open debate of ideas?

    • Anonymous says:

      ?? What happened to you? Are you serious?

    • Townie says:

      Actually UO and the Democrats are right about systemic racism. They just need to ditch the “successor ideology” / intersectionalist / illiberal lingo because people won’t listen to them if they continue to use it.

    • Proud Alumnus says:

      Saying “this assertion is questionable” isn’t critical thinking. If you want to question it, question it. Instead, you’re using tired rhetorical devices to frame people who don’t agree with you as anti-intellectual. The speech delivered at the pioneer statue dedication praised the “Anglo-Saxon race” for its “powers of assimilation.”

      If anything, the behavior of the donors who threatened to withhold CHARITY from the UO if the statues were removed is what’s illiberal and contrary to the free and open debate of ideas. It seems to me the real issue here is what happens when the debate concludes, and the powerful discover that they lost.

      • Non Proud UO Faculty says:

        https://web.viu.ca/davies/H479B.Imperialism.Nationalism/Ferry.Fr.imperialism.1884.htm

        not the concept of “superior duty to civilize the heathen” more or less. This kind of justification has been around for some time.

      • Not an academic or a historian says:

        Maybe we are splitting hairs but is it possible race in this context is not the same as race in the modern sense? It sounds more like ethnic-national supremacy. Perhaps distinctions should be made between white supremacy and an ethnic superiority complex?

        • Dog says:

          Yes in that context the French were one “race” and the German were another “race”. That is not the point. The point was that there were superior races, tribes, etc and inferior tribes, etc and
          that it is the civilized duty of the superior tribe to help uplift the inferior tribe.

          The concept of superior vs inferior is likely as old as human history due to our judgmental genes (that should get removed) – this always plays out in brutal forms throughout history. So you used the very words “supremacy” superiority, and these are the beliefs that smolder and then rise on occasion to produce various incidents. These beliefs do not have seemed to have been suppressed very much over time – eventually they will be.

      • Glad I quit UO and the democrats says:

        What “debate” is there precisely when you open your monologue with the conclusion that you’re already correct? Why do you assume I disagree with the premise as opposed to observing an attempt to frame the subjective as objective and assert a position from that frame?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Pioneer Mother and Pioneer Father torn down. Wow. Never thought Oregon would degenerate to this level. I’m actually ashamed of my alma mater. What’s next, burning books outside
    the Knight library?

    • uomatters says:

      Books? It’s been years since the UO libraries could afford to buy books. And we’d face some serious fines for burning the ones we borrow from inter-library loan. Just when did you graduate, old-timer?

      • New Year Cat says:

        No need to burn them. The Libraries have for months been “deaccessioning” and the books withdrawn are pulped. Apparently this is a trend in libraries, so hopefully the book/article you want to get from inter-library loan will still be in some library, somewhere.

    • honest Uncle Gangsta says:

      Anonymous, just be glad if they burn the books outside.

      And be glad that Schill is just spouting cliches in the most hackneyed manner.

      Somebody might actually take note of UO’s appalling graduation rate for Native students, and ask whether UO’s vaunted Diversity programs are actually helping people, other than the functionaries who receive the many millions, and the people enjoying preening in their own virtue, like the nauseating David Conover.

  4. Class of 2012 says:

    Whether they are right or wrong many of these activists are arguably cultural supremacists.

    I am a Liberal in the non-US sense. I reject supremacism of any kind and believe such an ideology is illiberal.

  5. Appropriate replacement says:

    The monuments should be replaced with something more suitable. Something commemorating a person who gave so much to build the UO. I’m speaking of course of Nike. No not a swoosh, another phalli, or a statue of uncle Phil. But a statue of a poor waif toiling at a sewing machine. Think of the millions of sweatshop workers that slaved for decades to actually create the wealth that went to the UO to build all these circus maximi.

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