William Powers Jr., president of The University of Texas at Austin, will propose to the University of Texas System Board of Regents the removal of the name from the university's Simkins Residence Hall, endorsing a recommendation by a 21-member advisory group, it was announced today (July 9).
"I accept and endorse the recommendation of the advisory group, and I will seek the approval of the Board of Regents for removal of the name from the residence hall," said Powers. "I value and appreciate the consultative process that led to this decision and the engagement of the community, students, faculty, staff and alumni in this issue."
Powers will propose renaming the residence hall and adjacent park Creekside Dormitory and Creekside Park at the July 15 meeting of the Board of Regents, which must approve the action.
The hall, which was built in the 1950s to house male law students and graduate students, was named for William Stewart Simkins, who taught at the School of Law from 1899 until his death in 1929. Simkins had ties to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) after the Civil War.
"The university's current naming policy addresses renaming in cases when the name compromises public trust and the university's reputation," said Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and engagement, who formed the advisory group at Powers' request. "In light of these guidelines, the advisory group strongly believes that renaming is the proper course of action. By his own admission, Simkins engaged in violent behavior against African Americans. These were actions taken outside of the law. Furthermore, Simkins wrote and spoke freely about these activities during his 30-year tenure at the university, promoting the Klan to students and others on campus.
"The group also believed that having a residence hall honorifically named for a founder of the Florida KKK is inconsistent with the core values of this university and with President Powers' strategic goal to increase diversity on campus. During the past four years, we have made significant progress diversifying the faculty, staff and student body and creating an inclusive campus climate."
The advisory group deliberated during a series of four meetings held in June and gathered input through an e-mail address and two public forums co-sponsored by the Student Government.
"An institution like ours is shaped by its history, but it need not be encumbered by it," Powers said. "While reflecting on the past and learning from it, it is important to focus on the future. The University of Texas at Austin is now among the most diverse institutions of higher education in the nation, and we will continue to invest in ensuring this is a place of opportunity for young people from all racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds."