University of Texas president plans committee to determine statues’ place on campus
AUSTIN — University of Texas President William Powers Jr. said he plans to form an advisory committee to study whether something should be done about the numerous campus statues honoring the Confederacy.
The statues have in recent history become a topic of debate among students, professors and administrators. They include four bronze figures on the campus South Mall honoring Confederate leaders such as Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States, and Robert E. Lee, the chief general.
Powers said he plans to appoint a committee of advisers early next year, probably including faculty members and students.
"The whole range of options is on the table," Powers said. "A lot of students, and especially minority students, have raised concerns. And those are understandable and legitimate concerns. On the other hand, the statues have been here for a long time, and that’s something we have to take into account as well."
The university’s previous president, Larry Faulkner, wrote an open letter to the campus more than two years ago saying the statues convey "institutional nostalgia" for the Confederacy and its values.
"Most who receive that message are repelled," Faulkner wrote.
Faulkner had proposed rearranging the statues. Other ideas under discussion have included adding plaques to offer more explanation of the statues’ historical and artistic context.
Some critics have proposed removing the Davis and Lee statutes and placing them in a museum.
Statuary on the UT campus has grown more diverse over the years, partly as a result of student-led efforts. A student tax raised funds to install a statue of Martin Luther King Jr., the black civil rights leader, in 1999.
Also in the works are statues of Chicano labor leader Cesar Chavez and Barbara Jordan, the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate and the first black woman from the South elected to Congress. A group of students recently launched a campaign for a statue of Mohandas Gandhi, the nonviolent crusader for Indian freedom.
Charles Roeckle, the deputy to Powers, said the university will eventually need to deal with the Confederate statues in some way.
"But at the same time, I find it edifying that students are dealing with this in a very positive way," he said.