Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Lingering gravestones in South Mall

Clara Webb

For nearly six years, the once Confederate occupied pedestals in South Mall have remained empty. Students before us fought for decades to finally rid our campus of those violent memorials, and doing so was an important step to making campus a safe and inclusive space for all of its students.

Every time I pass them, though, it feels as if the ghosts of those statues haunt South Mall. Four of the plaques still remain, and the lingering spaces remind us of what was once there. Even though the statues are now gone, leaving the empty pedestals and plaques untouched still allows the former statues to occupy space on our campus.

The pedestals in South Mall should be reused to memorialize beneficial and diverse individuals from UT’s history. 

History sophomore Danelo Gonzalez III has been working on a proposal that will finally reutilize the empty pedestals in South Mall. His proposal entails utilizing the pedestals to house celebratory statues of new, positive, diverse figures in UT’s history. 

“I believe that these pedestals should once more be utilized with brand new figures, depicting important Texans and Americans that, unlike the Confederates that used to stand on those pedestals, should be honored and memorialized in bronze on this campus,” Gonzalez said. 

Gonzalez believes this is important from both a diversity standpoint and one of public art. 

“This project could restore the physical appearance of one of the Forty Acres’ most iconic and important areas as well as bring more public art of figures who truly should be honored,” Gonzalez said. 

UT has historically been the site of ornate public art. Regrettably, though, a large portion of that art has been extremely harmful to our community. It’s great that we finally removed the destructive statues, but just because we have finally done so we shouldn’t have to forfeit enjoying the artistic capabilities of our gorgeous campus. 

It’s time to explore the future artistic reach of our community.

More importantly, by leaving those pedestals empty, we let our grave mistakes linger on what we’re trying to turn into a more diverse and inclusive space. It’s one thing to recognize our mistakes, but it’s more important to learn from them and continue growing. 

“(These new statues would) also be physical representations of UT’s mission statement what starts here changes the world,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully with these statues, they would inspire students walking up and down the mall every day to aspire to such change.”

Gonzalez suggests several influential and positive figures in both UT and American history. A few of these include Lady Bird Johnson, former first lady and UT alumna, George Sanchez, UT’s first professor in Latin American Studies and Thurgood Marshall, who served as both the first Black Supreme Court Justice and the legal representative of Herman Sweatt in “Sweatt v. Painter” — the case that desegregated UT Law. 

Some of these individuals already have buildings named after them on campus. While names can become overused and taken for granted, there is something powerful about memorializing an individual with their accomplishments permanently engraved next to them so that we never forget.

“These empty pedestals represent a new opportunity to be able to have brand new figures there for people to look up to, to read the inscriptions of who these important individuals were and to strive to the change that they were able to achieve in their lifetime,” Gonzalez said. 

While it is not currently in the works, the pedestals may be incorporated into a campus master plan. 

From a student perspective, adopting this method would be a huge step toward making UT the inclusive and safe space it purports to be.

Dance junior Megan Davidson explained why an adoption of this proposal would be so impactful.

“The thing about minority individuals and people that have been oppressed is that so often the only thing we can do to fix an environment that doesn’t work in our benefit is to go into a space that was made in our deficit,” Davidson said. “Putting up those diverse statues that commemorate the remembered and celebrated … uses the space for what it’s intended to be used for.”

Rather than allowing these spaces to remain stuck in the past, it’s time that UT showcases its growth and proudly celebrates its diverse students. This proposal has the potential to make our campus not only more inclusive but also a place of inspiration for the generations of Longhorns to come.

Lack is a dance and Plan II sophomore from San Angelo, Texas. 

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