Acting on the recommendation of University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr., The University of Texas System Board of Regents today (Thursday) unanimously approved the new name of a residence hall and park on the university’s campus.
Creekside Residence Hall and Creekside Park will replace the current names of Simkins Hall and Simkins Park, respectively. The residence 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 university’s School of Law from 1899 until his death in 1929.
The adjacent park was named for his brother and former UT System Regent Eldred J. Simkins. Both Simkins brothers had ties to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) after the Civil War.
Powers brought forward the recommendation of a 21-member campus advisory committee charged with making recommendations on the naming issue. The new names are effective immediately, and the campus will install new signage as soon as possible.
Remarks by Regent Printice Gary
Simkins Residence Hall Name Change
UT System Board of Regents Meeting
July 15, 2010
From time to time we are reminded of ugly periods in our nation’s history regarding civil rights by situations like this. When it happens, the question is what do you do about it. How does the community respond to these types of challenges?
I salute President Powers for taking very quick action to resolve what could have been a very divisive situation in setting up the 21-member advisory committee to consider the facts and to recommend appropriate actions. All of this was headed up very adeptly by Dr. Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement.
In my opinion, the process was thoughtful and expeditious and included input from all the key stakeholders — students, faculty, administrators, alumni and community representatives. Particularly I salute the students and their participation through the leadership of their student government organization. We also had input from the African American legislators, alumni and various community groups who were strongly in favor of a name change. The participants maintained a professional and rational demeanor throughout, which can be very difficult to do given an emotional issue like this, and they allowed the process to work.
Governor Rick Perry appointed me to the Board of Regents almost three years ago. During that time, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with students, faculty, administration, alumni and my fellow Regents. Based on those experiences, there was never any doubt in my mind as to what the outcome would be, and I am very pleased with the decision to change the name. The history behind the name is not in line with today’s University of Texas at Austin and its core values.
Lastly, The University of Texas at Austin is not unique in this regard. I suspect there are numerous symbols of various types rooted in racial and ethnic hatred that dishonor university campuses and other institutions across America where the negative history of the symbol is not known. The difference is that we acquired specific knowledge of this situation. I believe we acted appropriately and further, on a positive note, took advantage of this opportunity to restate the university’s position regarding the importance of diversity and inclusiveness. Going forward I hope that we can now reflect on the progress made to date at the university, which has been significant, and renew our commitment toward furthering diversity and inclusiveness across The University of Texas System.