The End of the Confederacy at UT?
Will UT's Jefferson Davis statue finally be taken down?
As the national outcry over South Carolina's Confederate flag has grown since last week's horrific massacre of nine black Charleston churchgoers by a white supremacist, UT-Austin's Confederate monuments (see "Written in Stone," May 29) have attracted renewed scrutiny as well.
A petition to UT President Greg Fenves to remove the Jefferson Davis statue has over 2,400 signatures, following up on a student government resolution, passed in March, in support of the removal. And in a June 23 press release, Fenves announced "a committee of students, faculty members, and alumni that will discuss the future of the Jefferson Davis statue and provide a range of options for me to review."
After a campaign conducted largely on social media (#nodavisoncampus), Fenves had tweeted in response on June 20, "I take this issue very seriously and am working with students and campus leadership on it." On June 22, he met with student government, and SG President Xavier Rotnofsky told the Chronicle that he feels optimistic. The efforts to remove the statue have been supported by Paul Begala, state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio.
That night, three of the Confederate statues on campus were spray-painted with "Black Lives Matter" and "Bump All the Chumps" (referring to one of the slogans calling to remove the Davis statue). The student government denounced the vandalism, urging students and supporters to work through the administration and student government.
Gregory Vincent, vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement at the university, will chair the new committee. On June 23, Vincent took questions in front of the Jefferson Davis statue. He said the task force hopes to make their decision by the end of the summer, while noting that any change would have to be approved by the regents. He also denounced the vandalism.
While the task force announcement was a sign of progress for many, it's worth noting that Fenves isn't the first to organize such a committee. As we reported in May, former UT presidents Bill Powers and Larry Faulkner both put together task forces to look into the statues – but neither ever did anything about them. Indeed, students have protested the statues since at least the late Sixties; it should be interesting to see how Fenves handles the situation this time around, given the national attention.