Posted on June 24, 2005

Two Students Help UW Honor Diversity with Art

Jake Ellison, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 23

The revolt began nearly two years ago, when University of Washington student Sumona Das Gupta got an urgent text message.

“A statue of Jim Owens going up and he was a racist.”

Stung by the news that the former UW head football coach would have his likeness cast in bronze and rooted in front of Husky Stadium, Das Gupta decided to fight back.

The student-activist teamed with her friend, Jaebadiah Gardner, an English major, and began researching Owens. They were shocked that the university was overlooking racism allegations in order to pay homage to the white coach’s stellar record in the 1960s and ‘70s.

“It was a slap in the face for UW to do that,” Gardner said. “We weren’t going to tolerate it, even if UW was.”

So they protested, huddled with top administrators and won: They persuaded the university to spend money on artwork that celebrates diversity, including a sculpture created by dozens of students in a special class.

Titled “Blocked Out,” the sculpture — unveiled 12 days ago during commencement weekend — is dedicated to people who have suffered from oppression. It features footprints in black granite, symbolizing a slave auction block, facing a curling stone bench.