Lori Holcomb, Daily Texan (Austin), Nov. 2
UT President Larry Faulkner will create a new committee to study the placement of Confederate figure statues located on the South Mall. A task force on diversity recommended last spring that Faulkner take similar measures.
“We’re thrilled about the way President Faulkner has moved on our recommendations,” said Lorraine Branham, director of the School of Journalism and member of the Task Force on Racial Respect and Fairness.
The committee will consider removing the statues completely, putting them at a museum such as the Ransom Center or moving them to a lower-profile area, said Student Government Internal Financial Director Jessica Rice, who worked on a project with the Orange Jackets to bring a Barbara Jordan statue to the University.
“The people that we choose to make statues of embody the things we respect and value,” Rice said. “That may be the problem with the Confederate statues.”
She said the committee will focus on placement of the Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis statues.
Faulkner is reviewing candidates for the committee from a massive list of nominations from faculty and administration, said Don Hale, vice president for public affairs. He said the committee should be selected within several weeks but could take longer. Branham and Hale both said specifics of member qualifications have not been determined.
SG members expressed their hopes for students to be a part of the statues committee at a meeting Tuesday night.
“Students walk the 40 Acres - they receive most of the symbolic impact from these statues,” Rice said.
Though no decision has been made to move the statues, a popular option among University officials is to place them in a location that makes more sense to their historical value.
SG president Brent Chaney said artist Pompeo Coppini originally envisioned the statues of Lee and Davis grouped with Woodrow Wilson in a pavilion around the Littlefield Fountain. This would have symbolized the joining of the North and South as a solid unit during World War I, Chaney said. But funding problems interrupted Coppini’s vision and caused the statues to be disbursed across the South Mall.
“Separated, the statues make no sense and are not a good representation of what we’re about,” Chaney said.
Branham said she believes there will always be some people offended by the statues, but putting them in a new position will help people better understand why they are on campus in the first place.
“It’s important to put these statues in historical context,” Branham said. “Not for actions being glorified, but to put together in a way that helps people understand a painful time in our history and how far we’ve come since.”
She said the formation of the committee is a step in the right direction but is just a part of a combination of things that must be done to make a difference in diversity on campus.
“Just moving statues won’t do it,” Branham said. “But there is a whole host of things, and this is one small piece.”