Rotnofsky-Mandalapu file resolution to remove Jefferson Davis statue

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Student Government Executive Alliance candidates Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu filed a resolution to SG on Friday supporting the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue on campus.
Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Xavier Rotnofsky and Rohit Mandalapu, candidates in the Student Government Executive Alliance runoff, filed a resolution to SG on Friday that would support the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue on campus.

Braydon Jones, who is running against Rotnofsky for the presidency, was one of the resolution’s three co-sponsors.

“We might be one of the first candidates to author a resolution that will go to Assembly,” Mandalapu said. “We want to leave our mark, regardless of whether we win.”

The statue’s removal was one of Rotnofsky-Mandalapu’s original platform points. Rotnofsky said the team did not want to wait until after the election to start lobbying for the statue’s removal.

“To put him on a pedestal, quite literally, is wrong,” Rotnofsky said.

The statue’s presence on campus has sparked controversy in the past because of Davis’ status as a Confederate leader. Last weekend, the statue was temporarily defaced with the word “CHUMP” written on the statue’s base in blue chalk.   

“Whereas, Jefferson Davis argued vociferously that the institutions of American slavery were beneficial; and ... whereas, The University of Texas at Austin as a public institution of the State of Texas that represents a diverse student population should not condone or promote Jefferson Davis’ values that are offensive to the student body … be it further resolved, the University of Texas at Austin Student Government fully endorses the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue from campus,” the resolution read.  

Rotnofsky and Mandalapu, who wrote the resolution with Chris Gilman, editor-in-chief of the Texas Travesty, and Plan II senior Ciaran Dean-Jones, also cited historical precedent for altering campus symbols that “do not align with the values and ideals of the student body.”

In 2010, at the request of UT President William Powers Jr., the UT System Board of Regents unanimously voted to rename Simkins Residence Hall to Creekside Residence Hall. The hall was originally named for William Simkins, a UT law professor and Confederate solider who was also a Florida Ku Klux Klan leader.

After three pages of factually-based arguments in favor of the statue’s removal, Rotnofsky and Mandalapu also cited former Nickelodeon show “Drake and Josh.”

“Be it resolved, that Drake and Josh was one of Nickelodeon’s most celebrated TV shows…they would have never supported a Jefferson Davis statue on the program,” they wrote.

Jones, who is currently speaker of the SG Assembly, said the resolution ties into his campaign, although it was not a part of his and his running mate Kimia Dargahi’s official platform.  

“I think it’s a perfect example of what our campaign stands for,” Jones said. “I think it’s a great example of listening to students. Now we’re going to look into what students want. … I’m looking forward to the conversation.”

Dargahi is not currently in SG but served as the federal relations agency director in 2013. Neither Rotnofsky nor Mandalapu are currently involved in SG. Any University student is allowed to author a resolution.

The resolution will be presented to the SG Assembly on Tuesday and sent to a committee after. If the committee approves the resolution, the Assembly will vote on the resolution in the coming weeks.   

“With all the talk that has been going on, with all the attention that [Xavier and Rohit] brought to this issue, I think this is a great time,” Jones said.