Student Government will vote on legislation supporting removal of Jefferson Davis statue

Samantha Ketterer

The Student Government Assembly will vote Tuesday on legislation supporting the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue on campus. The Student Affairs Committee passed the amended resolution, which will now head to the full Assembly for a vote, Sunday night.

SG President-elect Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President-elect Rohit Mandalapu co-authored the resolution with Plan II senior Ciaran Dean-Jones and Chris Gilman, Texas Travesty editor-in-chief and radio-television-film senior. The statue’s removal was one of Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s campaign platform points, and the two presented the resolution to the Assembly before they were elected.

“Students approached us after they saw the platform point,” said Rotnofsky, linguistics and Plan II junior. “As president and vice president-elect, we fully intend on getting this done.”

In the resolution, the authors said the statue’s presence on campus is not consistent with the values of the University. Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. The statue’s presence has been debated in the past, but no action has been taken to remove the statue.

Attendees of the committee meeting inquired as to whether Rotnofsky and Mandalapu would push for the removal of other Confederate images on campus, such as the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee also on the South Mall. Mandalapu, economics and Plan II senior, said the removal of the Davis statue is their current priority, but taking action on the other images is something he and Rotnofsky will consider.

“It’s a premier statue of the University facing the South Mall,” Mandalapu said. “What we aim to do with this legislation is put this forward first.”

Rotnofsky said one option the University might consider is moving the statue to a museum instead of destroying it.  

The committee also amended the original draft of the resolution, removing the title “Bump the Chump” and removing a clause stating that the Nickelodeon show “Drake and Josh” would not support having the statue on campus.

The legislation additionally noted a precedent from 2010, when, at the request of UT President William Powers Jr., the UT System Board of Regents unanimously voted to rename Simkins Residence Hall to Creekside Residence Hall. The hall was originally named for William Simkins, a UT law professor and Confederate soldier who was also a Florida Ku Klux Klan leader.

The statue’s presence received much attention following Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s release of their platform points. In early March, the statue was temporarily defaced with the word “CHUMP” written on the statue’s base in blue chalk. 

Amber Magee, public health sophomore and chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Agency, said the statue is a problem but is often overlooked.

“This is a recurring issue, and this [resolution] is a really awesome first step,” Magee said.