UT campus has a distinct unassuming beauty, but the landscape does not immediately call attention to its racist Confederate imagery. Tucked away behind kempt shrubbery is an engraving that proclaims the “valor” of the men and women of the Confederacy, inscribed by Confederate soldier and UT Regent George Littlefield. Unpresuming still is the RLM building, named after Robert Lee Moore, acclaimed mathematician who was said to have refused to let African-American students in his classes.
During his long tenure at the University, Moore’s research brought fame to the University. His racial prejudice, however, brought only despair for the few African-American students pursuing mathematics at UT. He is remembered to have said, “You are welcome to take my course, but you start with a C and can only go down from there,” in response to black graduate student W.E. Hunt’s request to enroll in Moore’s class. Moore even famously walked out of a lecture once he realized the speaker was Black.
The University should not commemorate a man whose views exemplify intolerance and racial prejudice. The denotative significance RLM holds, muffles and mask the strides Black students have made to make the University a welcoming place for their community.
Others have urged the University to preserve the names of landmarks such as RLM in attempts to embrace even the darker aspects of UT’s history. The same contenders argue that these landmarks serve as great learning opportunities for UT students. However, these arguments fall short when you point to the lack of efforts exerted by the University to place the landmarks in their correct historical context.
International relations and global studies senior Tangie Seals said creating a safe space that fosters diversity means addressing even the subtleties that hold symbolic power. The less overt forms of aggression, she adds, magnify the burden minorities have to bear.
“The statues and building names make me feel like the University is telling me, ‘We will let you come here, but you still do not belong,’” Seals said.
RLM Hall is a huge testament to the University complacency toward accommodating its minority students. It is unacceptable for Black and Brown students to navigate structures that commemorate systems that worked hard to deny them. Renaming RLM will not be erasing history but rather taking a step forward toward inclusivity.
“[Renaming RLM] tells Black students that despite our low numbers, the University can still acknowledge our pleas,” Seals said. “It shows us that we still matter.”
Gayo is a African and African diaspora studies senior from Houston. Follow Gayo on Twitter @LoyceGayo.