Mark Axel Tveskov, professor of anthropology at Southern Oregon University, is a member of the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation. The board was the victim of an online barrage of hate messages during its last meeting, forcing it to end abruptly.
A Medford member of the State Historic Preservation Advisory Committee speaks after launching an investigation into those who may have posted hateful comments at a recent virtual meeting.
For eight years, Mark Axel Tveskov, professor of anthropology at Southern Oregon University, served on the board that reviews all nominations for the Oregon National Register. But he had never seen or heard anything like comments that were written at a committee meeting on October 21-22.
The SACHP ended less than an hour after a public participant began typing “racist slurs and other hateful slurs, and released the personal addresses of committee members,” according to a statement from the recreation department of Oregon Parks.
“The meetings are open to the public – and that’s usually a good thing – and it only took a minute to realize we were being subjected to this kind of abuse and it was extremely upsetting,” Tveskov said. . “When I realized what was going on, I tried to let the support staff know it was happening. “
Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, issued a statement apologizing to committee members and the public for “having to endure this attack.”
“There is no public place for this vile behavior,” she said.
The incident has been referred to Oregon State Police for investigation. An information official said earlier this week that there were no new details on the matter at this time.
Tveskov said the comments were not only personally damaging to board members and those who may have listened, but also harmed “our public discourse as a whole.”
“If people find it acceptable to say these things and say them in a public forum, it acts as a kind of feedback to contribute to more disgusting behavior that is detrimental to our society and our individuals,” a- he declared.
Tveskov hoped an investigation would do justice and questioned whether the reason the board was targeted with hate speech was because it was reviewing three nominations associated with African American resources in Portland from 1851 to 1973. Tveskov’s job was to consider an appointment for the Golden West Hotel, the first hotel in Portland to accept African Americans.
“This is the incredible story of a black entrepreneur who ran a hotel that was a center of the secular African-American community in Portland,” he said. “It was a time when African Americans in Oregon couldn’t stay where they wanted to, so it was a necessary part of life in a big city. I was so happy to read this nomination and see this building listed on the National Register, potentially. “
Chris Havel, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation, told the Mail Tribune on Monday that his agency was rescheduling the meeting, but no date has been set.
“We must first ensure the well-being of our committee members,” he wrote.
Havel said there will be changes to the meeting format going forward to protect committee members and allow them to do their jobs.
“We are now sorting out some options and will announce them at the same time as we issue a rescheduling notice for the meeting,” he wrote.
Tveskov agreed that changes to the meetings would be necessary.
“I think it would be prudent to offer better controls. With a bit of luck [sometime] we will come back in person, where it is not so easy to be so awful, ”he said. “But I don’t think we should get any more private.”
He was careful not to speak for his counterparts, but Tveskov sensed a “resolve” among the board going forward.
“It won’t be the last word,” he said. “We are not going to stop our activity. We are very committed to equity, diversity and inclusion in the national registry process… to ensure that under-represented voices are included on this list, which honors Oregon in all its facets. I think there is going to be a fair amount of determination to make sure that we do just that.