Name the SAC after Margaret C. Berry

Zoya Waliany

Thanks to the new Student Activity Center, students can finally take refuge from Wendy’s during lunchtime. Affectionately called the NUTSAC, this one-year-old UT building offers study areas, simulated fireplaces, meeting rooms and, most importantly, Zen and Taco Cabana. The new building has found its niche on our campus and, now students feel the time has come to appropriately name the building.

You might have noticed the life-size cardboard cutout of a tiny, older lady on the West Mall recently. This tiny, older lady is Margaret C. Berry, one of UT’s highly distinguished alumni. A group of students are campaigning to rename the SAC after Berry in an effort to honor her tireless dedication and loyalty to the University. The group manages a website and other forms of social media in efforts to inform students about her. According to the leaders of the group, the main focus is spreading the word about Berry and the reasons why she deserves to be revered in this manner.

Reasons for honoring Berry are abundant and apparent. From the start of her education in Austin, she has had a unique interest in preserving and highlighting UT’s history. Berry received her bachelor’s degree in history from UT in 1937. Her doctoral dissertation on student life and customs at UT during its first 50 years, combined with four books about UT’s history, traditions, buildings and leaders, has earned her the title of UT’s unofficial historian.

Well after her education was completed, she continued to serve the University in various ways, ranging from working as a faculty adviser, an undergraduate professor and the associate dean of students. Berry further left her mark the University by encouraging the creation of a religious studies department, claiming that cultural understanding is crucial to the American public. Even today, Berry continues to speak with student groups across campus and impressively remains as involved in UT affairs as possible at the age of 96. Berry has devoted her life to not just improving UT but improving the UT student body. Her passion for the last few decades has been the students, and renaming the SAC gives us a chance to thank her for her devotion to us.

The campaign to rename the SAC after Berry began in Student Government last year. After SG instead decided to discuss other naming options, these students redeployed to the West Mall and are currently attempting to garner campus-wide support to rename the building after Berry through a petition. They launched their campaign last Monday and since then, the students have obtained about 3,000 signatures.

The battle for the name change appears, to an unknowing UT student such as myself, a superfluous struggle for a simple housekeeping issue. Noticeably, many students support renaming the SAC after Berry, and she is anything but a controversial figure, unlike the former namesake (former KKK leader William Simkins) of what is now Creekside Dormitory.

So, what’s the hold up? Why are students initiating a petition when the normal route for such a matter would be to create an official endorsement via a legislative entity, such as SG, to present to President William Powers Jr.? Inner-circle politics within our campus legislative body is seemingly creating obstacles to renaming the building and triggering a greater issue over an innocuous subject.

Furthermore, our modern campus of 161 buildings has a mere eight buildings named after women — five of which are women’s and co-ed residence halls and one of the remaining three, Anna Hiss Gym, is scheduled for demolition. The addition of the Barbara Jordan statue to our campus was a tremendous effort toward the greater representation of notable female figures on campus. Yet, we still hardly acknowledge our impressive women alumnae, and Berry is as impressive as they come. Not only will this equal the playing field for women alumnae, but it may also serve as an impetus to inspire future Longhorn women to serve UT similarly.

Evidently, Berry is an outstanding alumna who is unmistakably deserving of this honor. She has devoted her life to improving the student body, and the SAC was designed specifically for the student body. To name the SAC after Berry would not only honor a dedicated UT alumna but also a prominent female figure. By signing this petition, students may be able to pay tribute Berry and put this non-issue to rest.

Waliany is a Plan II and government senior.