UT Senate of College Councils unanimously voted to support renaming Robert Lee Moore Hall to the Physics, Math and Astronomy building at its meeting Thursday.
Robert Lee Moore, a former UT math professor, vocally supported segregation at UT and discriminated against black students during his nearly 50-year tenure at the University. The Senate resolution encourages all students, faculty members and staff to refer to the building as the PMA in official documents, such as class syllabi, to dissociate Moore’s well-documented racism from the building and UT.
Resolution author Alcess Nonot said administrators have not yet heeded calls to rename the building, and students have started movements to rename it themselves. She said the legislation will make the issue more visible for students who are not in the College of Natural Sciences and show the efforts of organizations such as People for PMA.
“The grassroots movement started way before we were involved,” said Nonot, a human development and family sciences and biology junior. “People for PMA and the PMA board for student advocacy are the ones doing this even though our council has this privilege to uplift their voices to administrators. But the credit should go to them.”
Nonot said she recognizes legislative student organizations have addressed the issue before.
“We chose to do it again to make it a formal request to all other college councils,” Nonot said. “We want to make the People for PMA movement known campuswide so all students refer to the building as PMA.”
Physics graduate student Suzanne Jacobs represented People for PMA during the meeting.
“(Robert Lee Moore) was an excellent math teacher, so they say,” Jacobs said. “But he was also extremely racist, refused to teach black students and ... we in the College of Natural Sciences thought we shouldn’t have our building named after this man.”
Jacobs said student advocacy has led to faculty and the dean of the College of Natural Sciences to refer to the building as PMA.
“We will accept that it stands as RLM as an indicator of the politics of the University,” Jacobs said. “But we, as the student body, reject it.”
Resolution author Rory Malek represented the PMA board for student advocacy during the meeting.
“There’s no negative consequences here,” public health sophomore Malek said. “It’s just naming a building and fostering a sense of support ... and it’s not going to hurt anyone. I have no idea why it’s controversial to express support for other college students.”
The resolution also supported adding more student representatives to the Campus Contextualization Committee, a committee UT President Gregory Fenves created after the removal of Confederate statues in 2017, according to the resolution.