AUSTIN, Texas—Appointment of a central officer to guide efforts toward inclusion and cross-cultural effectiveness and a commitment to a curricular review that will consider adoption of a required course to promote cross-cultural knowledge were proposed today (May 10) by Dr. Larry R. Faulkner, president of The University of Texas at Austin.
Faulkner’s proposals were in response to a report he received earlier this year from the Task Force on Racial Respect and Fairness, a 15-member group of students, faculty and staff he convened in March 2003. The group said in its report that broad issues need to be addressed by the university if it is to succeed in transforming the university’s culture to one of racial respect and fairness, civility and inclusiveness.
The task force recommended the creation of a vice presidential position that would have central responsibility for programs related to inclusion and cross-cultural effectiveness.Faulkner acknowledged the need for “a structure that can provide for moreconsistent attention” to the initiative. He proposed the appointment ofa “central officer” who would lead the efforts and suggested it couldbe a vice president, a vice provost, or an associate to the president. Faulknerinvited further comment from the university community and said he would makea decision on appointment of the central officer by the middle of the summer.
Noting that initiatives will span across all vice presidential portfolios and academic units, Faulkner proposed the establishment of a University Council on Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Effectiveness that would include designees of all vice presidents and the provost. The provost’s designee would chair a similar council consisting of designees of the academic deans.
Faulkner said in his 18-page response that he supported the concept of a course requirement, but that it must be considered in an overall review of the general curriculum.
“Consensus is building within the university that we should soon undertake the kind of review of the general curriculum that would be required to include a cross-cultural requirement,” Faulkner said. “I expect that such a process will begin in the next academic year. Authority for determining the general curriculum rests with the general faculty, which would examine proposals for revision and approve any changes.”
The University Council would be central to the university’s renewed efforts to recruit a top quality, diverse faculty, he said. Faulkner also suggested a more aggressive program “to invite Hispanic and African-American scholars to visit our departments and programs” and noted that this program would be supported financially by the provost’s office.
Faulkner pointed to the university’s reinstallation of race-sensitive admissions as key to its efforts to recruit a more diverse student population, another initiative advocated by the task force.
The president supported the task force’s proposal to defer the rush period for first-year students entering fraternities and sororities until January of the academic year. He asked James W. Vick, vice president for student affairs, to work with the Greek student leadership to examine the feasibility of making the change.
Faulkner also addressed the task force’s concerns about the impact of statues of historical figures on the South Mall of the university’s Main Building. He noted that “most of the reaction is evoked by the statues of leaders of the Confederacy, especially Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.”
The original design by Pompeo Coppini for proposed Littlefield Fountain, 1920.
The statues, Faulkner said, were part of the concept of sculptor Pompeo Coppini, who had originally grouped Davis and Lee with President Woodrow Wilson “to prove that in World War I both North and South were solidly welded in one great nation, without Dixie Line distinction.” Coppini’s plan was under-financed and could not be fully realized. Later, in campus architect Paul Cret’s master plan, Coppini’s memorial was dismembered.
“Figures who were to participate in a more obvious reunion were distributed around the South Mall,” Faulkner said, “so that each statue became, by default, an isolated representation of the depicted individual, with no clear theme underlying the selection of individuals.”
Faulkner proposed putting the Coppini memorial back together at its original site, the Littlefield Fountain.
“This is a question of history, art and architecture,” he said, “so the idea needs to be examined by a group of technically proficientpeople especially charged for the purpose. We will undertake this investigation.”
Whether or not that plan proves to be feasible, Faulkner said, the university would install histories on plaques beside each of its significant sculptures.
Faulkner said the university had already addressed the task force’s proposal that it institute an honor code. The new university honor code was adopted on April 29. He also noted that establishment of a Police Oversight Committee last year was a result of a task force recommendation made in an interim report to the president
“The oversight committee has had quite a successful first year,” he said. “I believe we can now have good confidence in its ability to fulfill the charge over the long term.”
Download the complete response from President Faulkner to report of Task Force on Racial Respect and Fairness (Word document, 110KB).
Download the complete Report of the Task Force on Racial Respect and Fairness (PDF file, 277KB, download Adobe Reader).