Jefferson Davis statue temporarily defaced amidst debate about its presence on campus

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Grace Gilker

The Jefferson Davis statue on the South Mall was temporarily defaced by a blue-chalk “CHUMP,” with an arrow pointing up to Davis, scrawled on the statue’s base early Friday morning. It has since been removed. 

The statue has long been a source of controversy for the University because Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

SG Executive Alliance candidate Xavier Rotnofsky, a Plan II junior, said he and his running mate Plan II senior Rohit Mandalapu, made the removal of the Davis statue on the South Mall a major part of their platform. 

“I’m running for student body president with this satirical campaign, [but] we made it one of our platform points to remove the Jefferson Davis statue,” Rotnofsky said. “We said we want to take down the Jefferson Davis statue because it’s not okay that it’s still on campus.”

After University Democrats distributed a survey to all Student Government candidates asking about their stance on the statue’s presence, Executive Alliance candidates Braydon Jones, a government senior, and Kimia Dargahi, an international relations and global studies and Middle Eastern studies senior, said they also support the statue’s removal.

“Braydon and Kimia do not support the vandalism of university property, but we do understand that it represents a part of US history that is not inclusive and creates such a culture on the Forty Acres,” they said in a statement to The Daily Texan on Sunday. “As we have said, statues on campus represent a part of history, for better or for worse … Whether it is physical monuments or the intangible cultural climate present on the Forty Acres, we will continue to advocate for an inclusive campus.”

Executive Alliance candidate David Maly, an economics and journalism senior, said although he does not support graffiti in any situation, he also does not support the presence of Jefferson Davis on the South Mall.

“I think that it’s wrong for UT to celebrate the racist past of our nation,“ Maly said. “I don’t think graffiti is ever okay. But I think that displaying our nation’s racist past with a statue does put students in a difficult position. I don’t condone defaming public property ever, or support it.”

University Democrats communications director Ashley Alcantara, an international relations and global studies senior, said UDems included the question regarding the Davis statue to find out the Executive Alliance candidates’ opinions of the statue remaining on campus. 

“We were actually inspired by Rotnofsky and Mandalapu’s inclusion of the issue in their platform and wanted to know what all of the candidates’ positions were on the issue, as these statues are construed as offensive to many people,” Alcantara said.

Plan II freshman Grace Gilker said the graffiti pushed her to think critically about the statue’s presence.

“In terms of the word choices, it was so anachronistic — the people who graffitied it used chalk,” Gilker said. “They were smart protestors — not just hooligans with spray paint they were trying to make a statement.”