Following the eruption of the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer, many universities pledged to create diversity initiatives and foster more inclusive environments. Yet many still uphold allegedly racist symbols and traditions.
UTA is not innocent. The university upholds outdated standards by not resolving concerns from students about statues and buildings named after allegedly racists figures.
The Shorthorn editorial board agrees with community members calling for the renaming of various buildings on campus with allegedly racist backgrounds.
In 2018, students called for the removal of former university president Ernest Hereford’s name and bust from E.H. Hereford University Center after a resolution titled “Renaming the University Center” cited alleged racism.
In April 2020, the Student Senate passed a resolution to rename Davis Hall following racism allegations against former university administrator Edward Davis, according to previous Shorthorn reporting.
After the resolution was passed, interim university president Teik Lim assigned a task force to investigate the allegations. The task force submitted a report and a series of recommendations to Lim, which are currently under review.
During a Tea with Teik Q&A on Feb. 10, Lim said the task force suggested that the name be replaced and said he is supportive of the move. He is in discussion with the UT System in sending the change forward.
However, the decision to rename the buildings and remove the bust remains up to the UT System.
Years after this push began, students are still advocating for the buildings to be renamed and for the removal of Hereford’s bust from the UC. These buildings and bust don’t reflect or represent the student body and can stand to be reevaluated.
The UT System must strongly reevaluate them.
UTA isn’t the only university in the UT System with allegedly racist traditions. The UT-Austin school song “The Eyes of Texas” will continue to be the UT-Austin alma mater despite allegedly racist undertones and ongoing controversy.
The Texas Tribune obtained a slew of emails sent to UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell by hundreds of alumni and donors explicitly threatening to cancel season tickets, end donations and boycott games if the university discontinues the song.
At least two people argued that because the Black student population at UT-Austin is less than 6%, their voices should not outweigh the wishes of the alumni base, and some suggested Black students find another university or leave the state.
Hartzell said the song will stay but pledged to “reclaim” it, according to reporting by The Daily Texan. He tasked a committee with researching the history of the song, which will not release its findings until sometime in March.
At this point, the UT System seems lackadaisical and uncommitted to the calls for equality and inclusion and the needs of minority students.
In K-12, we are taught about American history and prominent figures. Through these lessons and our own experiences, we can determine the significance of such figures using written and spoken testimony. There is no reason to memorialize racist historical figures using monuments or namesakes.
If UTA prides itself as the fifth most ethnically diverse university in the nation, their actions should reflect that. While UTA is making strides with the creation of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, UT System Chancellor James Milliken is not prioritizing the initiatives that the community is specifically advocating for.
The Shorthorn editorial board urges administration, staff, faculty and alumni to consider the actions and the legacy the university wants to be known for and petition the UT System for change.
The Shorthorn Editorial Board is made up of opinion editor Katecey Harrell; Editor-in-Chief Cecilia Lenzen; associate news editor Spencer Brewer; Samantha Knowles, life and entertainment editor; sports editor Adrian Rodriguez; news reporter Thevnin Rumende; and copy editor Jill Bold. Rumende was not present for this editorial decision, and engagement producer Katy Brieger filled in.