AUSTIN, Texas — Gregory L. Fenves, president of The University of Texas at Austin, has established the Task Force on Historical Representation of Statuary at UT Austin to discuss the future of the Jefferson Davis statue on campus.
The 12-member task force will be chaired by Gregory J. Vincent, the university’s vice president for Diversity and Community Engagement, and will include students, faculty members and alumni. It will submit recommendations by Aug. 10 to Fenves, who will then make decisions about the placement of statues on campus.
UT Austin’s Student Government and Graduate Student Assembly have requested that the university relocate the statue of Davis, the former Confederate president, from the university’s Main Mall to a museum. Fenves met with student leaders to discuss their concerns before naming the task force.
“I understand the students’ concerns and am looking to review the full history, significance and impact of the statues on campus,” said Fenves, who began as president June 3. “I have asked Dr. Vincent and the task force to be guided by the university’s core values of learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity and responsibility as well as the principles of diversity and inclusion.”
The task force has three charges:
- Analyze the artistic, social, and political intent of the statuary on the Main Mall, with particular focus on the statue of Jefferson Davis, as well as the historical context that they represent.
- Review the previous controversies over the Main Mall statues and factors that are similar and different today.
- Develop an array of alternatives for the Main Mall statues, particularly the statue of Jefferson Davis, with special attention to artistic and historical factors considering the university’s role as an educational and research institution. In providing alternatives, a discussion of the pros and cons for each alternative from the perspective of students, faculty, alumni, and other important campus constituencies will be particularly useful.
“To that end, the task force should ensure its work accurately represents history, values the fundamental principle that all people deserve respect, and serves to ensure these principles are preserved for the benefit of future students,” Fenves wrote in his charge to the group.
The task force will consult with experts both on and off campus, including the university’s Campus Climate Response Team, and receive input from faculty members, students, staffers and alumni.
Members of the task force are:
Gregory J. Vincent, Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement (chair)
Laura Beckworth, Law School alumna; Chair of UT Austin Development Board
Daina Berry, Associate Professor, Departments of History and African and African Diaspora Studies
Hector de Leon, Law School Alumnus; past president of both the UT Law Alumni Association and the Texas Exes; 2010 Distinguished Alumnus
Edmund “Ted” Gordon, Chair, Department of African and African Diaspora Studies
Rohit Mandalapu, Vice President, Student Government; Senior, College of Liberal Arts
Carlos Martinez, Associate Vice President for Governmental Relations
Lorraine Pangle, Co-director, Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas; Professor, Department of Government
Xavier Rotnofsky, President, Student Government; Senior, College of Liberal Arts
Frederick “Fritz” Steiner, Dean, School of Architecture
Marisa Swanson, President, Social Work Council; Member, Senate of College Councils; Senior, School of Social Work and College of Liberal Arts
Brian Wilkey, President, Graduate Student Assembly; Graduate Student, College of Natural Sciences