In March of 2019, an email was sent to Gonzaga students, faculty and staff announcing a review of the university’s archives for culturally and racially inappropriate images and documentations.
The institution uncovered flagged photos and illustrations from editions of The Gonzaga Bulletin, Spires and the Rogues Gallery in College Hall, as well as collections of sheet music and Bing Crosby memorabilia. Most of the images originated from the 1930s to 1970s.
Since then, more have been discovered on display around campus. Images were recently found in the Rogues Gallery depicting a man in blackface and inappropriate displays of Native American garb in a musical performance of “Little Mary Sunshine.”
Paul Bracke, dean of Foley Library, called the review a ‘preliminary inventory,’ because he felt that it wasn’t necessarily comprehensive and still had a deeper purpose to fulfill.
“We found a few things that are problematic within – or potentially problematic within – the Rogues Gallery, but that we need to provide more context [to],” Bracke said.
Raymond Reyes, associate vice president for cultural initiatives, said that as someone from a Native American and Mexican mixed background, it can be upsetting and angering to see people dressed in headdresses. He noted that with the approach of Halloween, more displays of cultural and racial issues are animated, and that people may partake in harmful behavior without realizing it.
“I want to believe that a lot of people at a predominantly white institution do not know what they do not know,” Reyes said. “We’re here to create a mirror to reflect back the good, the bad and the ugly of the historical narrative that makes Gonzaga University what it is today.”
On the GU archives website, the library has provided a statement on sensitive materials, which aims to provide context about the things that are a part of the institution’s history. The statement also condemns those behaviors and explains how the depictions do not represent GU now.
“The function of the archive is to serve as a record of the past,” Bracke said. “I think to take those out of the record of the past is to pretend that they didn’t exist. While we might not agree with those expressions, it is still a matter of fact that it happened and it’s still important in understanding our historic context.”
Bracke said the Rogues Gallery will be remodeled in the future. The collection of photographs ends in 2000, and hasn’t accounted for the 21 graduate years that have followed. Bracke and Library Services plans to edit down the previous years in order to include the last 21 classes, as well as make room for future generations.
Bracke has also been working on drafting a plaque for the Rogues Gallery, which would be displayed on both ends of the gallery as well as in the middle. The plaque would detail the origin, probable purpose and a warning about disturbing material displayed in the gallery.
Reyes said that the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2019 made the school reflect on how its actions were participating in an unequal system.
“This place was built on an intercultural encounter between the black robes and Society of Jesus in the Salish Interior to Indian People of this regional area,” Reyes said. “It wasn’t always a good story. We’ve got to confront and face that ugly darkness.”
The university has been taking part in audits, reviews, program assessments, meetings with the Unity Multicultural Education Center (UMEC) and collaborating with the history department to discover areas that needed addressing. From March 2019 to October 2019, Reyes and Bracke also did programming for students, faculty and staff.
Then, in the summer of 2020, they did some faculty development through the Center for Teaching and Advising, with an affinity faculty group called ‘productive discomfort.’ Reyes said that whatever action takes place, it must be embedded in the curriculum in some way.
GU’s next effort will be an audit of its statues to ensure they do not represent any injustices against minority communities. Reyes also hopes to put a small committee of students, staff and faculty together in the future to audit sectors of the institution and identify heavy material.
“As we try to critically engage with issues of diversity, equity, inclusion around us, I find myself always kind of examining and re-examining my own experience and position,” Bracke said. “And I think that’s just in parallel what we need to be doing as an institution.”
Reyes referenced GU’s mission statement, saying the community as a whole needs to be proactive in this movement in order to move these processes forward. The most important elements for efficiency will include emotional intelligence, spiritual literacy and multiple perspectives, he said.
Members of GSBA declined an interview, but requested the images displayed in the Rogues Gallery so that they could be removed.