Opinion: UT Shouldn’t Prioritize Football Over Historic Preservation

The university needs to preserve its cultural heritage, not prioritize another football facility

Opinion: UT Shouldn’t Prioritize Football Over Historic Preservation

A proposal by the University of Texas at Austin to replace a registered national historic building with a second football training facility should spark outrage among preservationists and community members who value the university's architectural heritage. The scheme not only disregards the history between the university and the local community, but it also demonstrates a misplaced priority and lack of foresight by UT-Austin.

Historic buildings are more than just bricks and mortar – they are a testament to a community's past and offer a connection to its historical roots. They represent tangible evidence of a shared history, and their preservation is crucial to understanding who we are and where we come from. The historic building in question has its names inscribed above the building's main entrance, University Junior High School (UJH), but currently houses the Steve Hicks School of Social Work.

It's critical to note that UJH was constructed during the Great Depression and was a collaboration between two local entities, UT-Austin and the Austin Public School System. As described in a 2001 National Register of Historic Places registration form, the latter "could not afford to build a new school, and the University had funds to build the school, but lacked resources to pay for its operation. In 1933, the city of Austin and the University of Texas collaborated to build a model school, called University Junior High, as a laboratory for the UT School of Education. The agreement, which operated on a five-year plan but was open to renewal, allowed University students to observe classes and practice teach, and met the needs of Austin's growing school-age population." While it's easy to dismiss the nearly 100-year-old building as underutilized and obsolete, especially in the shadow of the recently constructed Moody Center, it offers the university and community a ripe opportunity to reimagine a restoration process that is truly collaborative and will honor its history while preserving its integrity. If UT-Austin demolishes UJH, it is not only destroying a physical structure with sentimental value but also severing a link to the past that cannot be replaced.

Furthermore, the proposal to build a second football training facility at the expense of UJH is a misplaced priority considering one already exists. If proximity to DKR is truly the problem, then why can't the new facility be built at Clark Field and move the lacrosse and sports center to the defunct Denius Fields? While Texas Athletics may argue that it needs additional facilities to improve its football program, the reality is that sports should not come at the cost of priceless historical artifacts. UT-Austin has a responsibility to protect and preserve its architectural heritage, which is a critical aspect of its cultural identity. The proposal to demolish UJH and build a second football training facility also displays a lack of foresight. The decision to prioritize sports over preservation sends a message that the university is more concerned with short-term goals than long-term sustainability. UT-Austin has the resources to elegantly expand UJH if more space is needed, but it should focus on restoring and preserving its heritage, which will continue to serve as a source of inspiration and pride for generations to come.

UT-Austin's plan to replace UJH with a second football training facility is a short-sighted decision that disregards the importance of preserving the university's cultural heritage. UT-Austin has a responsibility to protect and maintain its historic buildings, which are a vital part of its identity and legacy. Sports are important, but they should not come at the cost of invaluable history. UT-Austin should reconsider its proposal and prioritize preservation over short-term gains.


Edwin Bautista is a graduate student in the Community and Regional Planning Program at UT-Austin.


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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

University of Texas, Longhorn football, University Junior High School, UJH, Steve Hicks School of Social Work

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