Nameless Nobodies On The March

When you are a nobody, a nothing, with no famous people in your family tree, you might be motivated to go after people who are somebody – and their family – so you can feel like somebody! I grew up on westerns that depicted a novice gunslinger going after a gun man with a reputation so as to – own a reputation!

Many Universities have been given large grants by wealthy and famous families. Many buildings are given the names of these people. A wealthy friend of mine donated to the new Eugene Library and he has a shelf baring his name, and my own – along with a third friend! How generous. This (nameless) friend was the head of a department at the Univversity Oregon and was put in charge of making sure Latino Studies was on par with other departments. I have photos of the demonstrations.

With the appearance of Robert Mueller on T.V. yesterday, saying he did not clear our President of Obstruction of Justice, a inventory needs to be taken of how many President of Universities voted for Trump – after hearing powerful evidence he is a racist, and, he condones sex abuse! Trump asked when Joe Paterno is coming back. President of OSU, Ed Ray, led the crusade to punish the Nitny Lions.

Did Ed vote for Trump? Did Ed contribute to any Republican candidates? Ed an dis gang of historians made a case against my kindred, Senator Thomas Hart Benton for being the Prophet of Manifest Destiny. Did you know OSU is a Land Grant University? Ed is going to resign in a year. Let us examine the legacy he will leave behind. He said he was going to leave it up to the people of Benton County to give a new name to Benton Hall, in the way of a vote, but, he reneged! Why? The answer is simple, as racist as Benton was, and as much of a White Supremist, he was as well…….THE PEOPLE loved him, and they voted for him! The Voice of the People had already spoken and wanted Benton to speak for them!

Because Ed Ray and his historians rejected much of Benton’s history, and because they removed his name from two buildings, they have relinquished ownership of my kindred’s history – that I claim this day! I am the Caretake of my family history! I demand that all papers and documents pertaining to my family history, be delivered over to me for safe keeping. Who knows when the next onslaught of the  Nameless of the Organized Revolution, sweep through the campus – and burn down the Records Department! I am also concerned for the mural of my artist kin, Thomas Hart Benton.

I will go to court to prevent Ed Ray from setting up his Pillory of Perpetual Shame after cherry-picking my family history. There is Iconoclasm going on here. I can not count out that some of the nameless ones in the photo above, know the Eugene Anarchists that came after me and my family – with the help of my neighbors! Will this pic of Ed’s Anarchist Army be in his display, or, does he not want to give them any more play? Their fifteen minutes of fame, is out of there – too! I really had to go digging for them. It took three days to find them.

“Out of sight, out of mind!”

John Presco

President: Royal Rosamond Press

President Trump denied knowing about a White House request to move “out of sight” the warship USS John S. McCain during his visit to Japan, but said whoever issued the directive was “well meaning.”

Each day during the week of Feb. 27, Oregon State University students marched through buildings on campus, disrupting classes and chanting.

This was the chant: “These racist buildings have got to go!”

The students, calling themselves “Organized to Revolution,” are trying to call attention to four campus buildings they believe are named after racists. The group’s goal is to get Arnold Dining Center, Avery Lodge, Benton Hall and Gill Coliseum renamed.

The students declined to identify themselves by name when approached by a Gazette-Times reporter, but one of them said: “We are using trying to get rid of building names as a way to draw attention to issues of students of color on campus.”

Initially, they have targeted four buildings on campus for a variety of reasons. (See the related story on A4 for details about all four buildings.)

Some cases against some of the buildings seem fairly clear-cut: Avery Lodge, for example, is named for Joseph Avery, a founder of Corvallis who a university historian said owned and edited a pro-slavery newspaper, the Occidental Messenger.

Others are less clear: Thomas Hart Benton, for example, was a Missouri senator who advocated for policies that transferred Oregon land from natives exclusively to white people. And William Montgomery Meigs’ “The Life of Thomas Hart Benton” quotes him making unabashed white supremacist comments to Congress.

But, university officials contend, Benton Hall is not named for the Missouri senator — it is named for Benton County, which was named for the Missouri senator.

“It’s in honor of the community,” said Steve Clark, OSU vice president of university relations and marketing. “It has nothing to do with the individual.”

The university is on the verge of adopting a new process for reviewing the complex histories surrounding some building names, likely starting with these four, and making recommendations to OSU President Ed Ray about whether the buildings should be renamed.

Clark, who chairs the university’s Architectural Naming Committee, said the new process has been in development for nearly a year and could be used to begin evaluating building names before the end of March. Clark said the process would call for the issues to be evaluated and decided over a 10-week process.

“We take this very seriously and we’re not going to dawdle,” he said.

The process

The draft proposal outlines the following steps:

• Any community member can submit a renaming request, but Clark’s committee is also allowed to initiate evaluations of building names when community concerns are well-known.

• A subcommittee of the Architectural Naming Committee then will perform a preliminary evaluation to determine if support exists to demonstrate the name may be inconsistent with “OSU’s mission to create an equitable, inclusive, and diverse educational environment.” That review should be complete within 21 days, a draft of the policy said. The subcommittee prepares a written report documenting its evaluation.

• Whether the request for a full evaluation is approved or denied, the university does public outreach and engagement on the topic.

• A full review includes engagement with content area experts and “community education and engagement.”

• The committee is to base its decision based on this question: “Was the ‘context’ of an individual’s life and legacy inconsistent with OSU’s contemporary mission and values such that a building should be renamed?”

• Following an evaluation, the full committee votes on whether to recommend the president rename the building. The full evaluation has a goal of being complete within 30 days.

• Clark said the president would be asked to make a decision on renaming within a week of the decision by the committee.

Larry Landis, OSU’s director of the Special Collections & Archives Research Center, was co-chair of the subcommittee of the Architectural Naming Committee that developed the process for evaluating names.

“This is a vetting process,” he said. “We want to make sure OSU as an institution is living up to its core values.”

Landis said the subcommittee work began in April 2016 because the administration knew there were concerns in the OSU community about some building names, but also because there has been a national trend toward reconsidering building names at other universities. (The University of Oregon, for example, has gone through controversies recently surrounding the names of some of its buildings.)

Landis said the issues around building names are often highly nuanced, so the committee process gathers both historical information and public input on which the president can base decisions.

“Some of the issues may not be clear-cut,” he said. “That’s why you need a process.”

Landis said the process is an opportunity to make the university’s history more accessible. He added that the committee wants the process of evaluating names to be transparent and include opportunities to engage the public, possibly in town hall-style meetings.

“We want everything to be in the open, the good and the bad,” he said.

Landis said the Architectural Naming Committee will likely begin by evaluating the four buildings protested by the students, which are buildings that have been previously discussed as potentially problematic before.

Landis said he recommended the evaluations begin in alphabetical order, so the Arnold Dining Center and Avery will be examined in spring term if everything goes as planned.

Joseph Orosco, a philosophy professor who co-chaired the subcommittee that developed the new process for evaluating names with Landis, said it gives the university a way to have an open and frank discussion about how it distributes honor and recognition through the naming of buildings.

“Very often we think about this issue in terms of what happened in the past. But it really is about the present and the future,” he said. “We need a way to talk about what values we want to uphold right now as a community and what kind of university we want to leave for future generations. Many people say we have a responsibility to honor past traditions, but I also believe that we have a responsibility to think about our legacy, and how our present ethical commitments can lead to a more healthy and prosperous community in the future.”

Orosco said many of the students involved in the protest have told him the issue of building names is just the tip of the iceberg for them about questions about equity and inclusion at the university.

“This is one part of a bigger struggle to try to imagine an institution that can work for the benefit of all members of the community, not just the majority. Part of that work is dealing with the reality that OSU was envisioned early on as a place that did not include the participation of faculty and students of color. It took over a hundred years as an institution to come around to its commitment to diversity and inclusion and students want a way to recognize the importance of that struggle and not just the people who probably would not have wanted them here in the first place.”

The university is holding a public meeting to explain the new process and gather public feedback on it at 7 p.m. Monday in Room 268 in the Learning Innovation Center.

A Thomas Hart Benton painting is at the heart of a controversy at Indiana University, where a student petition is calling for a mural depicting hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan to be removed from a classroom. In response, the school has stopped holding classes in the room, the largest lecture hall on campus.

Nearly 1,600 signatories are asking the school to take down or cover the offending panel from A Social History of Indiana (1933), also known as the Indiana murals. But others are speaking up in support of the artwork, contending that Benton was looking to draw attention to the evils of the Klan.

“It is past time that Indiana University take a stand and denounce hate and intolerance in Indiana and on IU’s campus,” reads the petition, which argues that exposing students and faculty of color to the image of the KKK stands in violation of the school’s diversity policy and the student Right to Freedom From Discrimination.

In the mural, the Klansmen are seen alongside a reporter, photographer, and printer—a reference to the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1928 story that uncovered the KKK’s ties to the government and broke their political influence over the state. Similarly, Benton unapologetically depicted the ugly side of Missouri history, including lynchings and a slave auction, in his A Social History of Missouri murals for the state capitol building.

Thomas Hart Benton, <em>A Social History of Indiana</em>, (1933), on view in th auditorium at the University of Indiana. Courtesy of University of Indiana.

Thomas Hart Benton, A Social History of Indiana (1933), on view in the auditorium at the University of Indiana. Courtesy of University of Indiana.

“Like most great art, Benton’s murals require context and history,” said Lauren Robel, the school’s executive vice president and provost, in a statement, calling the works a national treasure. “Many well-meaning people, without having the opportunity to do that work, wrongly condemn the mural as racist simply because it depicts a racist organization and a hateful symbol.”

“It does not glorify or celebrate this particular dark episode of the KKK in Indiana, but instead shows that the state’s past has shameful moments the likes of which we do not want to see again, ever,” added James Wimbush, the university’s vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs, speaking to USA Today. “It’s important to understand the state’s history—the good and the bad.”

The petition acknowledges that Benton intended to denounce the Klan, but points out that the KKK is still active in the state today, claiming that “these are in fact modern depictions and not just depictions of a historical time in Indiana.” It calls the classroom housing the artwork “an environment that promotes a group known for discriminating against people of color, homosexuals, non Christians, and various other marginalized groups of people.”

Henry Adams, an art history professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, has published an editorial in defense of Benton in the Conversation. He details the painter’s well-documented rejection of racism, from participating in the NAACP-organized 1935 exhibition, “An Art Commentary on Lynching,” at New York’s Arthur Newton Gallery to learning the African-American dialect Gullah.

Thomas Hart Benton, <em>A Social History of Indiana</em>, (1933), on view in Woodburn Hall 100 at the University of Indiana. Courtesy of University of Indiana.

Thomas Hart Benton, A Social History of Indiana (1933), on view in Woodburn Hall 100 at the University of Indiana. Courtesy of University of Indiana.

A Regionalist painter who painted scenes of everyday American life—think Grant Wood’s American Gothic—Benton was commissioned by the Indiana State Legislature to create the murals for the Indiana Hall at the “Century of Progress” exposition at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. Adams says the artist was likely chosen for the project “because of his progressive political views”—and because he could complete the massive project in time. (He used 10,000 eggs to create the 22-panel egg tempera work over the course of just six months.)

The murals were donated to Indiana University in 1940 and installed across three buildings on campus the following year. According to the school, the murals are quite delicate and cannot be removed without risk of damage. There was talk of having classes discuss the sensitive artworks, but some professors were uncomfortable moderating such potentially fraught conversations or did not want to devote class time to a subject unrelated to the course.

In hopes of ending the controversy without removing the mural, the school says it will now use the room containing the mural for activities other than classes.

“Covering the murals feels like censorship and runs counter to the expressed intent of the artist to make visible moments in history that some would rather forget,” said Robel. “Repurposing the room is the best accommodation of the multiple factors that the murals raise: our obligation to be a welcoming community to all of our students and facilitate their learning; our stewardship of this priceless art; and our obligation to stand firm in defense of artistic expression.”

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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