On Saturday, supporters celebrated the opening of the University of Oregon’s Black Cultural Center. But one of the former Black Student Task Force members said the university should still do more.
The creation of the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center is largely due to the efforts of the Black Student Task Force. In November 2015, the organization presented a list of 12 demands to President Michael Schill in order to improve the success of black students on campus. One of the founding Black Student Task Force members, Dayja Curry, said this should only be the beginning.
“This building is a keystone in our vision to create a more culturally inclusive campus,” said Curry. “And while the BCC is a step in the right direction, it is not our final destination. We must continue to hold the administration accountable.”
After the ceremony, Curry said the university still needs to meet four of the demands.
“Commitment to create a funding [for a] resource and scholarship initiative for black students, commit to hiring an African American advisory retention specialist, also, commit to immediately keeping and publishing data on efforts to increase black student acceptance and retention,” said Curry.
When asked about the university’s progress on meeting the rest of the demands, President Schill said they have since hired more black faculty members, including advisors, and are looking into the legality of creating a race-based scholarship. Schill said he wants to make sure black students are succeeding at the same rate as white students—if not better.
“Advisors are really working on that. We’ve seen increases in retention and graduation rates, but we can do a lot more,” said Schill. “And what we want to do is eliminate the gap between say, black students and white students in terms of graduation.”
Former Black Student Task Force member Dayja Curry also noted that their first demand to change the names of two buildings named after supporters of the Ku Klux Klan has not fully been met. In 2016, Dunn Hall was renamed to Unthank Hall. However, in 2017, Schill formally announced that the university would not rename Deady Hall—the university’s first building—named after one of its founding members. To quote Curry’s speech, “justice deferred is justice denied.”
“It makes me feel like this school—they’re on the wrong side of history,” said Curry. “They had an opportunity to show students that they’re invested in our safety, in our well-being, and they missed that. They missed the opportunity.”
When asked on Saturday about his decision to keep the name of Deady Hall, President Schill declined to respond.