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Should Gill Coliseum be renamed? 'You talk about the history and you shape the future'

Oregon State University is considering name changes to some of its buildings on campus. (SBG)

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- Leaders at Oregon State University are considering renaming Gill Coliseum after students and faculty raised concerns that its namesake has ties to racism.

Gill Coliseum is named after longtime OSU basketball coach Amory "Slats" Gill. It opened in 1949 and was formally named Gill Coliseum in 1966.

Since then it has been at the heart of OSU athletics, housing men and women's basketball, volleyball, wrestling, and gymnastics.

In March, students demonstrated on OSU's Corvallis campus, accusing Gill of resisting racial integration of the OSU men's basketball team.

"Many sports teams across the nation were not integrated," said OSU Vice President Steve Clark. "The question really is, did Slats Gill, as a coach and as an athletic director, actually espouse policies of discrimination?"

Since then, university leaders have assembled a team of historians to research Gill's past. They also created an Architectural Naming Committee, a Building and Place Name Evaluation Subcommittee, and a work group made up of students, staff, and community members. In August, they launched a website to gather public input.

"We want to listen to our students, we want to listen to our alums, we want to listen to the Corvallis Community," Clark said.

The namesakes of Arnold Dining Center, Avery Lodge, and Benton Hall are also being scrutinized for alleged ties to racism.

Benjamin Lee Arnold (1839-1892) served as the second president of Corvallis College (now OSU) from 1872-1892. The university is evaluating Arnold’s service in the Confederate Army.

Joseph Conant Avery (1817-1876) was a co-founder of Corvallis. The university is evaluating Avery's ties to the Occidental Messenger newspaper, which advocated for slavery.

Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) was a U.S. senator from Missouri who is being evaluated for his westward expansionist policies and his belief in the supremacy of the white race. However, Clark said that Benton Hall was named for Benton County, and not Thomas Benton.

Some OSU students support the name changes.

"Something rooted in racism should not be upheld, especially at a university like this," said fifth-year student Christina Torgerson.

Other students say renaming the buildings goes too far.

"It's the way they've been for a long time and the people who they're named after...they did things to deserve that," said OSU senior Berend Schaefer.

"Students should definitely have a say in what they change the name to," said first-year graduate student Marcus Weinman, "so that way everyone feels comfortable with what the plans are."

Clark said, changed or not, the buildings' original namesakes won't disappear altogether.

"We'll have plaques; we'll have information. That's what universities do. You research the facts, you talk about the history and you shape the future,” Clark said.

OSU will announce its decision in late November.

Learn more about the buildings and upcoming public meetings here: http://leadership.oregonstate.edu/building-and-place-names/about

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