Confronting History

In October, The Oregonian published a series of stories examining its historic role in reinforcing racism in the state. 

The series focused, in part, on the racist words, action and legacy of the newspaper’s early editors and owners, including Harvey W. Scott, who has ties to Pacific University.

We laud The Oregonian’s work in facing its own racist history. At Pacific, we too have sought to examine, acknowledge and pursue restorative justice for our own historic actions and institutionalized racism, such as our early leaders’ support for the Forest Grove Indian School. 

It is a difficult, humbling — and ongoing — process.

Harvey W. Scott graduated from Pacific University in 1863. As the first baccalaureate graduate, a donor and supporter of the university, and a notable and influential figure in Oregon history, he received considerable attention. In the past several years, we have worked to rethink and reframe how we acknowledge his legacy in relation to our university. Celebrating a person due to their influence alone is wrong when that influence is used to cause harm. And, as is clear from The Oregonian’s recent reporting, his influence caused significant oppression and harm.

This weekend, the Pacific University Board of Trustees voted to rename the building currently known as Harvey W. Scott Memorial Hall. The building, which is scheduled to undergo renovations starting this spring, will be temporarily renamed Pacific Hall as the university embarks on work toward a permanent new name.

Oregonian editor Therese Bottomly explained it well:

“It may be tempting to say we weren’t here back then, that wasn’t us, we didn’t do it. Judge us for what we are today … To be sure, we are not responsible for those wrongs, but we can acknowledge them, humbly and forthrightly. … The institution today can learn from those failings and work to correct mistakes we make in more modern times.”

Pacific acknowledges historical ties with and past recognition of a community leader who advanced racism in our state, and we apologize for the harm it has caused. We are committed to examining and learning from our past as we go forward embracing our mission to think, care, create, and pursue justice in our world. 

Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022