Dear University of Texas Students,
I am a Mexican American mathematician and have been on the faculty of Rice University for many years. Currently, I am writing a book entitled “The Precious Few” that concerns diversity, equity and racism in STEM areas at research universities. Of course, when I talk about racism, I include many anecdotes about the late University of Texas mathematician Robert E. Lee Moore, perhaps the most racist mathematician of all time. There is no doubt that Moore was a great mathematician and teacher, but there is also no doubt that he was a racist — his racism is legendary.
Now, I compliment your mathematics department and in particular the leadership given by my respected friends — math faculty Philip Uri Treisman, pioneer of the nationally recognized Emerging Scholars Program, and the late Efraim Armendariz — in producing such a large number of underrepresented minority math majors at UT. Given that your mathematics department resides in Moore Hall, named after R.L. Moore, I ask — what is the impact of this naming on underrepresented minority students in particular and all students in general at UT? I have directed several underrepresented minority doctoral students here at Rice who were undergraduates in mathematics at UT, and we talk about this issue.
As a friend of UT, it bothers me much more than the placement of statues of his namesake Robert E. Lee across the South, yet this issue has been seriously questioned recently.
Sincerely, Richard Tapia, professor of mathematics at Rice University.