As we move ever forward to improve the state of race relations in this country, looking back at our history seems to only reveal the issues of the past. I have remarked before that we must reflect on the ideals of those we have chosen to revere. A growing population of students who wish to do so have turned their sights on Robert Lee Moore Hall.
Earlier this month, I attended a forum on campus discussing the storied history of the namesake of the building that houses the math, physics and astronomy departments, as well as a call to rename the hall. Aside from a few light-hearted suggestions for potential names, the forum exemplified a serious dedication to an issue that has spurred recurring discussions, petitions and even articles from this paper.
Robert Lee Moore was a tenured professor and an accomplished mathematician that pioneered the Moore method, his signature approach to teaching. Any of his accolades as an educator, however, are trumped by his notoriety as a staunch segregationist and the many examples of his contempt for black students.
In one case, Moore told a black student interested in his class that “(he was) welcome to take (his) course, but (he would) start with a C and (could) only go down from there.” Another time, Moore walked out of a lecture by R.H. Bing, a world-renowned topologist and student of Moore’s methods, upon discovering that Bing was black.
A month ago, another in a long list of students created a petition calling for a name change that has reached 49 of its 100 intended signatures. In arguing for the renaming of the hall, education freshman Taylor Godwin said that “The University of Texas at Austin is an institution that stands for change and embraces its range of diversity” and that “the name Robert Lee Moore is a shame and disgrace to this campus, and (the hall) should thus be renamed to something that celebrates the beautiful color and diversity found on this campus.”
Although a diverse community of students call UT home, people of color are constantly reminded that some still perceive them as unequal or inferior. From the appearance of racist flyers on campus in May, to the recent offensive depiction of an African-American man on the door of the dean’s office at the McCombs School of Business on Friday, black students have plenty of reasons to feel unwelcome on campus.
Despite any contributions Moore made to the University of Texas, the choice to commemorate a segregationist is a slap in the face to any person of color that walks into that hall. No student should have to feel like topologist Scott Williams, who was greeted by two ex-Moore students at a conference with, “You are lucky he is dead. Otherwise, you would not be here.”
Kunz is an English freshman from New Braunfels.