Task force's report: University should use public opinion to justify what is an obvious, moral choice

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Grace Gilker

On Monday, at long last, the Task Force on Historic Representation of Statuary at The University of Texas at Austin released its lengthy report.

To summarize dozens and dozens of pages of legal jargon and other assorted gobbledygook, the task force noted that "[t]here was broad consensus that doing nothing was not a viable option."

To anyone whom had observed the events leading up to this point for more than a few minutes, this should not come as any bit of surprise. In fact, it should be in contention for the most obvious understatement of the summer. Indeed, only after untold amounts of time, money and energy have been expounded creating this task force has the university been able to even admit that much.

Indeed, as the task force's report notes, a majority "supports the relocation of statuary to another location on campus," continuing that "the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, which has offered to take custody of the statues, presents the most natural solution for relocation."

However, these lighthearted suggestions are where the task force ended its opinionated comments. Nowhere in the report is a specific and direct list of demands for the university to adopt in an effort to solve this unique problem and other related issues. Instead, all students and other community members on the 40 Acres are left with are milquetoast suggestions. Although this was the task force’s charge, it is also its weakness.

Since the task force's conception, its lack of power has arguably been its greatest drawback. As I previously noted on this topic in a column in the Texan, the university has been misguided in attempting to use public opinion as the rationale for removing the statues.

As I wrote at the time: "The University should not need expert testimony or public opinion to know that honoring a traitor to this country who staked his legacy on owning other human beings — all with positively no direct connection to the state of Texas — is wrong."

But that is, in fact, what the task force did in making the recommendations. Instead of doing as such, President Gregory Fenves should take this opportunity to lead and courageously move that the statues, of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and other prominent Confederate officials, be relocated.

As it turns out, unlike previously thought, it will be Fenves and Fenves alone who will make the final decision about what to do with the statues. Reportedly, he will make this decision before the end of the summer.

The Daily Texan editorial board, which I sit on,  has long been supportive of doing something about the Confederate statues. My original suggestion had once been moving them to the Bullock Texas State History Museum down the road. But honestly, it doesn't necessarily matter in what museum they are housed. What matters is that the university finally begins to grapple with its messy history on racial issues and move constructively into the future. It would be tremendously naïve to assert that moving some piles of granite would solve those issues, but it would definitely be a good place to start.

Horwitz is a government senior from Houston. He is the Senior Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter @nmhorwitz.