SG supports renaming building currently named after racist mathematician

Katie Balevic

In its last meeting of this administration, Student Government unanimously passed legislation in support of renaming Robert Lee Moore Hall, a building named after former UT mathematician and outspoken segregationist Robert Lee Moore.

Representatives from the Graduate Student Assembly and SG are advocating the renaming of RLM so as not to memorialize Moore’s well-documented discrimination toward students of color, women and Jewish people and to avoid deterring minorities from enrolling in the school.

“Part of the problem with UT is our historic racism on campus,” said Samantha Fuchs, legislative affairs director of the GSA. “We have a lot of work to do about undoing those racist artifacts.”

Moore, who taught at the University for 39 years, adamantly refused to teach black students, said Fuchs, an environmental engineering graduate student.

“Robert Lee Moore is historically, thoroughly documented as being a horrible person for his racism, sexism and anti-Semitism,” Fuchs said.

The building, which houses the physics, mathematics and astronomy departments, was named after Moore in 1973 to persuade him to retire, which he refused to do at age 86, according to Joint Resolution 11. There have been several student-led efforts to rename the building over the years, but the decision is ultimately up to the Board of Regents, according to the legislation.

Some students have started referring to the building as the PMA — the physics, mathematics and astronomy building — which has been suggested as a new name for RLM, physics teaching assistant Gregorio Ponti said.

“When I teach, I kind of bring it up that I call it the PMA and not the RLM anymore,” Ponti said. “Even if the institution doesn’t actually change it, we can still call it PMA … and show that we don’t accept racism.”

SG was asked to lend its voice to the renaming effort in order to capture the student opinion on the issue before the GSA meets with the Board of Regents, said SG representative Charlie Bonner.

“We need to make conscious efforts about the things that we memorialize and the people that we give tribute to on this campus,” said Bonner, a Plan II and government senior. “I think this is an important place to start.”

This was the last meeting of the 111th SG Assembly. The new administration, led by president-elect Colton Becker and VP-elect Mehraz Rahman, will be sworn in next Tuesday.