PHOTO: The Oregon State University student newspaper's welcome back move-in issue for Fall, 2017 featured a two page spread of a map (center) highlighting the OSU Cultural Centers, such as the OSU Pride Center for LGBT students and Women's Center (Daily Barometer, Sept. 15, 2017 p. 10-11) plus the stories by Avalon Kelly News, "Women's Center works with all gender identities," OSU Ddaily Barometer, Sep. 15, 2017, p. 14 and Melinda Myers, "Pride Center provides safe spaces," OSU Daily Barometer, Sept. 15, 2017, p. 15.
PHOTO: Oregon State University Engineering Benny Beaver mascot decal was a fad nearly half of a century ago when it was sold for ten cents to be applied on a student's car window. See previous posts Artist of OSU Benny Beaver engineer mascot decal used it for other schools (6/6/15), Slide rules, T-squares -- obsolete engineering tools (1/19/09), and OSU Benny Beaver Engineering Decal (12/9/06)
Anybody who has been around academia for decades has witnessed firsthand examples of how a few college fads will spread across across the nation, and sometimes even around the world, because the fad captures the imagination of students. Some fads prove to last and make permanent changes, such as the fad for "gay liberation," which slowly evolved to establish equal rights for LGBT people, but other fads will fade away and replaced by new fashions.
Two recent nationwide college fads that have risen in popularity at Oregon State University include the concept of "intersectional feminism" and researching campus building names to expose the unenlightened past of the people the buildings were named after, and then citing this research to request that university leaders change the names of the buildings named after racists or slave owners, etc.
The annual Fall welcome to OSU move-in issue of the student newspaper featured a series of stories describing campus resources, such as the OSU Pride Center for gay community members in the story by Melinda Myers, "Pride Center provides safe spaces," OSU Daily Barometer, Sept. 15, 2017, p. 15. She reports, "The Oregon State University Pride Center is a campus safe space intended for the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual) community. . . The Pride Center is a physical space, staffed by students, that provides connection to resources, community, and support for LGBTQ+ people and education for non-LGBTQ+ who want to be better allies"
Logically adjacent to the OSU Pride Center story, in the same Fall Term, welcome to OSU, issue of the student newspaper, is another story by Avalon Kelly News, "Women's Center works with all gender identities," OSU Ddaily Barometer, Sep. 15, 2017, p. 14. This story quotes Whitney Archer the associate director of Diversity and Cultural Engagement, and assistant director of the Women's Center, saying, "While our name is the Women's Center, we work with students from all gender identities and we strive to focus our work on gender justice through a lens of intersectional feminism." Also quoted in the story is Miriam Wojtas, a student leadership liaison at the Women's Center, saying that their mission is "continually fostering community that is intersectional - that way it serves as many folks as possible."
I have only casually followed the concept of intersectional feminism and my recent Google search led to an article by Alia E. Dastagir, "What is intersectional feminism? A look at the term you may be hearing a lot," usatoday.com posted Jan. 19, 2017, which lists how feminist scholars explain the meaning of intersectionality in their own words.
I first heard about intersectionality while reading the blog posts of a gay scholar, Wayne Dynes, "Identity," dyneslines.blogspot.com posted Sep. 11, 2017 who noteed how "The concept of identity politics is evoking current controversy . . . now it is thought that, we can be host to a basket of autonomous identities. That way the demon of intersectionality lies."
In an earlier blog post, Wayne Dynes, "Looking back at my career realistically,"dyneslines.blogspot.com posted Jul. 21, 2013, Dynes commented, "The general understanding of these matters is being fundamentally transformed by two factors: intersectionality and the trans perspective."
Another earlier post by Professor Emeritus Wayne Dynes, "Vagaries of the word queer," dyneslines.blogspot.com posted Jul. 16, 2017, declares the "queer" word to be obsolete and says, ". . . Queer Theory is collapsing, together with its postmodern cousins in the academy. No one that I know of speaks of queer rights or queer marriage. So the q word has not, despite the aspirations of some observers, become the overall label of choice. That function has been assumed by LGBT - not in my view the ideal solution, but it has in fact become the answer." However, after some analysis he notes, ". . . there is still a use for the queer label. In the current assimilationist climate there is a danger that our heritage (if I may use the term) of outlaw/outsider affirmation will be swept away. . . the word queer should still be employed for this, dare I say, heroic affirmation of the outsider tradition. But the q word is contraindicated as a generic term, and those of us who object to its hegemonic deployment are justified: it does not apply to us." Prof. Dynes was a participant of the homophile movement as well as a witness to the Stonewall era. (See his biography "Wayne R. Dynes" From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia accessed Ju. 17, 2017) (See previous post Wayne Dynes declares 'queer' word obsolete plus Dan Savage on 'straight' truth (7/19/17))
Another recent nationwide campus fad, which is for student activists to research the origins campus building names, has come to Oregon State University in a manner similar to what has happened at other campuses, and it has led student activists to demand that the names of some buildings be changed because the person they were named after was a slave owner or racist, etc. While I see nothing wrong with doing this type of research to expose the racist past of OSU, I also think the activist students could make a more lasting contribution than just demanding the renaming of a building -- a name that could be changed again in the future if a large donation is made, such as what happened when the OSU football stadium was renamed "Reser Stadium" after a $40,000,000 donation was received from the founder of the Reser food company named after himself.
The professional Corvallis, Oregon newspaper, which is printed in the college town where Oregon State University is located, reported the reluctance of the Oregon State University President to change OSU building names because it would be insensitive to history (See the newspaper story by Anthony Rimel, "OSU announces series of meetings to evaluate building names," gazettetimes.com posted Aug. 31, 2017). The OSU buildings being reviewed include: Arnold Dining Center, which is named for a former Confederate soldier who became an OSU president; Avery Lodge, named for Joseph Avery, a Corvallis founder who the university said owned a pro-slavery newspaper; Benton Hall, which the university said was named for Benton County, which itself was named for white supremacist U.S. Sen. Thomas Hart Benton; and Gill Coliseum, named for longtime basketball coach Amory "Slats" Gill, who student protesters have claimed refused to integrate his team. (A university historian has said there is no evidence Gill refused to integrate, but he only had one black player for part of a season.)
The University's administration leadership page says more on the subject: "Building and Place Names" Oregon State University, leadership.oregonstate.edu accessed Aug. 31, 2017, and also the regular page of OSU President Ed Ray quotes that is printed in every issue of the OSU alumni magazine mailed out to hundreds of thousands OSU Alumni members three times per year: Ed Said: Talk about renaming buildings is part of a crucial conversation. accessed Sep. 7, 2017 (PDF) printed as "Ed Said: Talk about renaming buildings is part of a crucial conversation" Oregon Stater, Fall 2017, p. 8 (PDF) inside of the OSU alumni magazine issue of "Oregon Stater," Fall 2017 Vol. 102, No. 3, p. 8. OSU President Ed Ray asks, ". . . what do you do? Do you put up a plaque with some background information that acknowledges the past . . ." and he also states, ". . .it's important in these cases to be more cognizant of history, to not always just erase a name and forget about it, but to put up plaques and share narratives, so we don't forget."
I agree with the OSU President's plaque suggestion, while I also believe that more can and should be done in a way to make a longer lasting contribution than to just "rename it and forget about it," as President Ray cautions, because who knows, it could be renamed again in the future, especially if a big donation was made, such as what happened after a a $40,000,000 donation was made by the founder of a food company who wanted the old OSU Parker football stadium to be renamed to "Reser" after himself.
Given these real possibilities, I have urged student activists to consider doing something that will be of a more lasting of contribution, which I also submitted as a letter to the editor of the OSU student newspaper:
Oregon State University will hold a series of meetings in September and October to evaluate four historic campus building names, which perhaps are named after racists or former slave owners.
I do not support renaming any building based only on contemporary cultural standards, even as somebody who was directly inspired in the 1960's by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to join his fight for racial equality and in 1970 by Jack Baker at the University of Minnesota to support gay marriage equality.
Although admittedly not an exact analogy, many OSU buildings were named after anti-gay individuals, and in response, with the help of a former OSU Pride Center director, plus OSU students and alumni, I wrote a history, "Corvallis, Oregon State University gay activism 1969-2004" (link http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/handle/1957/43450 in the OSU Scholars Archive).
It documents a gay OSU football player arrested for violating an anti-gay Oregon law a century ago, and it describes how OSU students first came out as being gay in the 1970's, before evolving toward using LGBT for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, while also taking back the derogatory usage of the word "queer" for homosexual.
While I applaud the recent research work of student activists, I believe they should leave the names alone and seize this opportunity to make a more lasting contribution by creating educational programs that teach about OSU's unenlightened past, which could be given during orientation sessions, campus tours, and in relevant classes at OSU.
The local professional newspaper has also printed reactions to OSU building name changes on their letters to the editor page, including one by Susan C. Hayes, "Letter: Report the facts about OSU names," gazettetimes.com posted Sep. 5, 3027 who states that ". . . Benton Hall . . . was named for the citizens of Benton County . . . It was the community's commitment by the citizens in 1885 to raise the $25,000 required by the Legislature to erect a building on the college farm that secured the state agricultural college for Corvallis. That building was originally called the Administration Building and, in 1947, renamed Benton Hall in honor of this citizen effort."
Another published letter to the editor is by P.M. deLaubenfels, "Letter: Don't change OSU campus names," Gazette-Times Sep. 8, 2017, p. A8 gazettetimes.com posted Sep 6, 2017 who asks, "Should Thomas Jefferson be dumped because he had slaves?" The letter writer P.M. deLaubenfels is a conservative who has an active Google Blogger page -- "Thinking About Music, Bicycling, Politics. . . .and a Little Science" gusquibble.blogspot.com blog by Paul F. deLespinasse -- and he maintains a, companion to his blog, Web page: Paul F. deLespinasse Web site at sites.google.com/site/superpublius/. He notes his age of 77 years in his post: Paul F. deLespinasse, "My new status, regular columnist at NewsMax," gusquibble.blogspot.com posted May 14. 2017, which links to Paul F. deLespinasse "Talking About Politics" Blog newsmax.com/Blogs/PaulFdeLespinasse/id-456/ and his other conservative writings. Dr. deLaubenfels is a retired emeritus professor from a small college in Michichagan, affiliated with the Methodist Church, who currently lives in Corvallis.
Unfortunately, all of the arguments against changing any buildings that are named after racists, including my reasons for not renaming any building, can be twisted by true racists as being support for their racists position, which is why I think it is important to make sure that OSU's unenlightened past is not forgotten so that OSU can continue to improve social justice by not forgetting its past.
See previous posts
- OSU Social Justice Walking Tour includes W. Dorr Legg story (6/8/14)
- OSU Scholars Archive has PDF of OSU gay history from OutHistory dot org (11/2/13)
- Supreme Court gay marriage decision vindicates Jack Baker and W. Dorr Legg 50 years later (627/13)
- Arthur Leonard on Oregon Marriage Ban and Minnesota passes gay marriage (5/15/13))
- Book by Michael McConnell on his marriage to Jack Baker that led to the first Supreme Court case on gay marriage (12/39/15) revised Sep. 7, 2017, that includes a link to the personal blog page post by Michael McConnell and
- Jack Baker, Esq.), "Birthplace of a right to marry University of Minnesota (U of M), Minneapolis, East Bank campus," box8661.blogspot.com posted Jun. 30, 2017, which gives an excellant summary of the complicated legal issues they are still fighting after the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding gay marriage.
A side note about the usage of the word "queer" as an identity. Many OSU students had adopted the "queer" identity by the 1990's and the controversy over it has largely vanished and it has become so common it has been declared dead in the blog post by Professor Emeritus Wayne Dynes, "Vagaries of the word queer," dyneslines.blogspot.com posted Jul. 16, 2017, who essentially declares the "queer" word to be obsolete and says, ". . . Queer Theory is collapsing, together with its postmodern cousins in the academy. No one that I know of speaks of queer rights or queer marriage. So the q word has not, despite the aspirations of some observers, become the overall label of choice. That function has been assumed by LGBT - not in my view the ideal solution, but it has in fact become the answer." However, after some analysis he notes, ". . . there is still a use for the queer label. In the current assimilationist climate there is a danger that our heritage (if I may use the term) of outlaw/outsider affirmation will be swept away. . . the word queer should still be employed for this, dare I say, heroic affirmation of the outsider tradition. But the q word is contraindicated as a generic term, and those of us who object to its hegemonic deployment are justified: it does not apply to us." Prof. Dynes was a participant of the homophile movement as well as a witness to the Stonewall era. (See his biography "Wayne R. Dynes" From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia accessed Ju. 17, 2017) (See previous post Wayne Dynes declares 'queer' word obsolete plus Dan Savage on 'straight' truth (7/19/17))