UT-Austin to rename RLM, allocate funds to support Black students

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Photo Credit: Jack Myer | Daily Texan Staff

The University will rename the Robert Lee Moore Hall as the Physics, Math and Astronomy Building and acknowledge the origins of “The Eyes of Texas” while continuing to sing it as a University tradition, according to a letter to the community Monday from Interim President Jay Hartzell.

The changes come after Hartzell said he spoke with “scores” of students about how the University can promote inclusion and support Black students. 

“I went into (these conversations) understanding that UT has worked hard in recent decades to become a more diverse and welcoming campus,” Hartzell said. “I came out of them realizing there is still more work to do — and that this work starts and ends by creating an environment in which students, faculty and staff are fully supported before, during and after their time at UT.”

Hartzell said in the message that one set of plans aims to recruit, attract, retain and support a diverse community. The University will allocate a multimillion-dollar investment from Athletics to programs that work to recruit and support Black students. The University will expand outreach in cities around Texas, focus on recruiting outstanding high school students from underrepresented groups and allocate additional resources to programs that provide opportunities for Black students. 

The number of Black undergraduate students has increased by almost 9% in past years, but Black students still comprise only 5.1% of the student body, according to Hartzell. 

In the last five years, more than 1,900 Black students who were automatically accepted to the University chose to go elsewhere, and many of them do not believe UT’s campus would be a welcoming home to them, Hartzell said.

Hartzell said the University will also launch an effort to improve students’ positions for post-graduation success, continue an initiative focused on recruiting and retaining world-class faculty members who bring more diversity to research and teaching, refocus the 2017 University Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, and expand the UT Austin Police Oversight Committee. 

Hartzell outlined a second set of actions addressing symbols on campus that have been brought up in recent discussions about acknowledging racist history.

In addition to renaming the Robert Lee Moore Hall and acknowledging the origins of  “The Eyes of Texas,” the University will create the Heman M. Sweatt Entrance to T.S. Painter Hall as the main entrance. Painter Hall will be redesigned to include an exhibit and gathering place telling the story of the 1950 U.S. Supreme Court case of Sweatt v. Painter. The University resisted integration under Painter’s presidency, and the Supreme Court case that Sweatt won allowed him and other Black students to attend the University.

The University plans to honor the Precursors, the first Black undergraduates to attend the University, by commissioning a monument on the East Mall as a part of a larger space dedicated to students and faculty who worked to make the University more inclusive. Hartzell said the University will educate the community and visitors about the history of names remaining on campus, such as Littlefield, Hogg and Belo, through the form of plaques and a website.

The University will also erect a statue for Julius Whittier, UT’s first Black football letterman, at the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and rename Joe Jamail Field for Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams at the suggestion of the Jamail family.

Hartzell said these actions represent the continued evolution of the University, and he will continue to share details for the plans as they are developed.

The letter was co-signed by Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Daniel Jaffe, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Darrell Bazzell, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Leonard Moore and Vice President and Athletics Director Chris Del Conte.