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Campus Connections to White Supremacy: Reconciliation through Community Engagement and Historical Research Public Deposited

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  • Presentation at the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color 2018 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on September 27, 2018. Building and place names play an important role in how community members interact with, remember, and revere their histories. In recent years, more and more communities, including colleges and universities, across the United States are challenging the existence of memorials associated with the confederacy and white supremacy. These memorials, whether they are statues, building namesakes, or place names, are symbolic of the long historical threads of racism, institutionalized discrimination, and the use of public spaces to perpetuate dominant narratives. These issues must be addressed as part of the efforts of inclusivity and equity that increasingly characterize the culture of college campuses. In this environment, archivists and special collections librarians are often called upon to provide historical context. We also have the opportunity to engage our communities in productive and transformative discourses. In addition to an overview of campuses across the United States engaging their communities in efforts to reconcile current values of inclusion and diversity with their racist histories, as a case study, attendees will learn about the Building and Places Names Evaluation process at Oregon State University (OSU). When OSU names a building, it speaks to its values and efforts towards creating an institution that respects and affirms the dignity of all individuals and communities. Therefore, OSU community members who raised concerns regarding campus buildings whose namesakes may have held or espoused racist or otherwise exclusionary views, posed an important question: “What does it mean for OSU to value equity and inclusion if individuals after whom its buildings are named did not?” Beginning in 2016, OSU began a process to answer this question by developing evaluation criteria, working with community stakeholders, responding to a student protest, providing a team of scholars historical research assistance, designing and implementing a community engagement plan, and planning for permanent education accessible to community members. Attendees will be able to adapt the information learned to plan for collaboration within their own communities, articulate the significance of building and place names with community inclusivity efforts, and advocate for the role of archivists and research librarians to help inform urgent, often fraught public debate.
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  • Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
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