Robert Lee Moore Hall is one of the largest buildings on campus, but the shadow of the man it was named after looms even larger in the mind of some students.
A petition created by Bradley Wolff, a business honors and finance junior, is demanding the University rename the hall due to Moore’s well-documented racism during his time as a professor at UT.
“The fact that African-American students are required to go into class and go meet with their professors and know that they’re stepping into a building where, if this was X amount of years ago, they would not be welcomed because [Moore] would not teach people of their race, is disgusting,” Wolff said.
Raymond Johnson, a math professor at Rice University, was a UT alumnus and one of the first black students enrolled at UT. Johnson wrote in his teacher profile that Moore once told a black student “he was welcome to take his course, but that he would start with a C and could only go down from there.”
The petition has 101 signatures, mostly from UT students, and has already sparked discussion between Student Government and the UT administration.
SG President Kevin Helgren said he plans to meet next Wednesday with Gregory Vincent, the vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement at UT, to begin a dialogue regarding the name of RLM Hall.
“When it comes to something like a name change, there is undoubtedly a whole lot of red tape we need to cut through,” Helgren said. “The removal of the Jefferson Davis statue indicated that there was hope. The distinction is, though, that Jefferson Davis had no real ties to UT. Robert Lee Moore, on the other hand, was a professor here for years, and he has contributed a great deal to education as a whole and, more specifically, to math.”
Helgren said he didn’t advocate for or against renaming the building because of complicated ties Moore had with the University.
“Back then, that type of ideology, that type of mindset, unfortunately, was normal,” Helgren said. “Now that doesn’t justify or validate that mindset by any means, but we have to keep that in mind. By traveling down this road, for the sake of consistency, we would also have to travel down a lot of other roads. The University of Texas as a whole has racist underpinnings, so if we want to wage war against every racist tie at the University, we would need to consider revamping the entire process.”
Despite Helgren’s recommendation of caution, Vivianne Tu, SG representative and business honors sophomore, was contacted by Wolff and is considering creating a resolution to recommend the University change the name of RLM Hall.
“The fact that we honor a man who was a white supremacist is not reflective of UT’s core values now,” Tu said. “While he was a great mathematician, I feel that can be celebrated in other ways than plastering his name on a building in which thousands of students go through every day, and of those students, there were those who he would have never even wanted to come through his building.”