University of Texas Overcoming its History

Liz Austin, AP, Oct. 9

AUSTIN, Texas—It’s the little things that make Brandelyn Franks feel uncomfortable at the University of Texas at Austin.

Things like walking into a class of 400 students and having the only black face. Or getting sideways glances from teachers and classmates when something racially controversial is said. Or seeing the same handful of people at every diversity forum at the school.

“I don’t necessarily think that the university is very inviting, although they try to make like they are,” said the 21-year-old history major, who’s in her fourth of five years.

President Larry Faulkner has heard those concerns, and last year called for sweeping changes to make the state’s flagship university a more welcoming place for students of color.

Among the changes was the recent hiring of Greg Vincent, the new vice provost for inclusion and cross-cultural understanding, who’s working to attract minority students and professors.

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Take the statues of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and other prominent Confederate figures that are displayed on the South Mall, a prime gathering place for students.

“What does that say to your African-American students?” Watkins said. “These men fought to make sure I would not be a student at this university, that I would remain a slave.”

A panel of students, faculty and staff that Faulkner assembled to study racial tensions at the university has recommended moving the statues to another location on campus.

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