Task force announces recommendations for statues on Main Mall

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Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent speaks to media at a June press conference held in front of the Jefferson Davis statue. Vincent addressed vandalism of Confederate statues.
Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement Gregory Vincent speaks to media at a June press conference held in front of the Jefferson Davis statue. Vincent addressed vandalism of Confederate statues.

The Task Force for Historical Representation of Statuary recommended the relocation of Confederate statues on campus or the addition of explanatory plaques on the statues in its final report to UT President Gregory Fenves earlier Monday.

The task force submitted five recommendations, four of which call for the relocation of various statues, including the statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, from the main mall. The recommendations call for the statues to be moved elsewhere on campus or to museums in Austin. One recommendation proposes leaving the statues but adding explanatory plaques.  No alternatives call for the removal of the statues from campus.

“As we acknowledge contributions of those with Confederate ties, we should also strive to tell the complete history of Texas and the South,” the report read. “Doing so would enable tangible outcomes for ‘teachable moments’ like this current one.”

The task force, which included UT students, faculty and staff members, looked at the intent of the statues in the Main Mall on campus, studied racial controversies surrounding the statues, and provided alternatives to leaving the statues as they are. In the report, the task force said it aimed to accommodate changing times, while not ignoring the past.

“Rather than maintaining a one-sided interpretation of the past, UT Austin should take its cues from the various groups of students who attend this university and who want to ‘change the world,’” the report said. “The Confederate statues, therefore, are not only symbols of a now largely controversial neo-Confederate past; they are also powerful symbols of how that past continues to structure the present.”

Fenves first announced the creation of the task force June 24, a day after the vandalization of the statues of Davis, Robert E. Lee and Albert Sydney Johnson.  

The issue received renewed attention following the shooting of nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17. Student Government President Xavier Rotnofsky and Vice President Rohit Mandalapu then released a petition calling for the statue’s removal.

Click here to read the full report.

This blog post has been updated since publication for clarity.