UT still struggles with representation

Jennifer Liu

As of fall 2018, there are 51,832 students enrolled at UT. These students represent all 50 states, and 124 countries. Our total alumni measure nearly 500,000. 

Despite these figures, representation remains one of the biggest issues on campus. In UT’s 136 years, students, faculty and other members of the community have called for change regarding the University’s decisions to uphold traditions that many view as holding significant racist histories and themes. 

After multiple advocates on campus called for the removal of a statue of Jefferson Davis, the University decided to remove the statue from the Main Mall and relocate it to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History in August 2015. Advocates claimed that the Davis statue, in addition to five other statues lining the Six Pack, were representative of racist oppression and the institution of slavery, and alienating and disrespectful to many students. Several statues in UT’s South Mall — those of Robert E. Lee, Albert Sydney Johnston and John Reagan — received the same treatment just before the start of the fall 2017 semester. Additionally, James Stephen Hogg’s statue was removed in 2017 but was reinstalled in December 2018 to continue to represent the Hogg family legacy on campus. 

Despite some progress, symbols of UT’s history with racism remain. The University’s fight song, “The Eyes of Texas,” is an especially controversial one, with many people defending its place in state tradition and others calling it an offensive relic of the past. Many buildings on campus are named after significant university figures: Painter Hall, Hogg Memorial Auditorium and Robert Lee Moore Hall. Painter Hall was named after T.S. Painter, former University president famous for his role in Sweatt v. Painter in preventing a black student from enrolling. Hogg Memorial Auditorium was named after James Hogg, former governor of Texas who signed the first Jim Crow laws — by enforcing segregation in railroad cars — into existence. Robert Lee Moore Hall — the tallest academic building on campus and home to the departments of Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy —  was named after a mathematician who was known for refusing to teach black students. 

For this week’s Forum, Richard Tapia, a math professor from Rice University, writes on the implications of having Robert Lee Moore Hall named after such a figure. Jacqueline Briddell, a communications junior, and Amie Jean, student body vice president, discuss another aspect of representation — the importance of uniting communities to create a whole and representative body on campus. 

As always, if you have thoughts on this topic or any other, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected].