Oregon State to Rename Buildings So as Not to Honor Those Who Supported Slavery

Edward Ray, president of Oregon State University in Corvallis, has announced that the university will change the names of three buildings on campus because the people for whom the buildings have been named had expressed support for the institution of slavery.

Benton Hall and Benton Annex will receive new names. The buildings were named to honor residents of Benton County who raised a great deal of money for the university. But Benton County was named after former Missouri U.S. Sen. Thomas Hart Benton who had defended slavery and supported federal legislation to remove Native Americans from their tribal lands.

Avery Lodge will also get a new name. Joseph C. Avery, who made important contributions to the founding of the university, had ties to the pro-slavery Occidental Messenger. President Ray stated that Avery’s actions “to advance slavery in Oregon are inconsistent with Oregon State’s values.”

Two other building names were also considered for name changes. Arnold Dining Center will not be renamed. Benjamin Lee Arnold was president of what is now Oregon State University. He served in the Confederate Army and his family owned slaves.

Gill Coliseum will also not be renamed. Amory T. “Slats” Gill, was the university’s basketball coach from 1928 to 1964. During this period no African Americans played basketball for the university. However, President Ray stated that Gill had unsuccessfully tried to recruit Black players.

Moving forward, President Ray stated that “we will inform all about the Oregon State University’s history, values and mission. We will recognize the positive contributions of those associated with Oregon State. We will celebrate what is good and reconcile what must be improved, and in doing so, help engage the broader OSU community and its stakeholders in the university’s efforts to create inclusivity for all.”

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