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Three statues at the University of Texas at Austin that commemorate Confederate leaders were vandalized in June 2015. PHOTO by MATTHEW WATKINS/THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

by MATTHEW WATKINS

AUSTIN — On the same day that three statues commemorating Confederate leaders were vandalized at the University of Texas at Austin, campus leaders said they may soon decide whether to remove the statues.

UT-Austin President Greg Fenves announced on Tuesday that he has formed a task force to study the issue. That committee will likely recommend a plan to Fenves this summer. For months, many students have been calling for the statues to come down. That idea has picked up support since the fatal shooting of nine people inside a black church in South Carolina last week sparked national debate about Confederate symbols across the South.

“This is a passionate issue,” UT-Austin Vice President of Diversity Gregory Vincent, who will chair the task force, said at a press conference. “It strikes at the core of what does history mean, and what does it mean today to live in a diverse society.”

The committee’s full membership won’t be announced until Wednesday.

“I deeply understand the concerns of our students who have raised the issue,” Fenves said in a statement. “I have been working closely with them to consider the range of options that recognize the impact that statue has on our students and the need for us to understand and learn from our history.”

There are three statues commemorating Confederate leaders on UT’s South Mall. In March, the school’s elected student assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution asking administrators to remove the most controversial one, of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

That statue, plus ones of generals Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston, were tagged with the words “Black Lives Matter” overnight Monday. The Davis graffiti also contained the phrase “Bump All the Chumps.” Maintenance workers had removed the red paint by Tuesday afternoon.

That graffiti has been accompanied by more formal outcry. An online petition asking for the removal of the Davis’ statue collected more than 1,500 signature within 24 hours Sunday.

Vincent said his committee will work to ensure that “all voices are heard” before a decision is made. He compared the process to one that took place when the school renamed a dorm originally named for a former UT law professor and Ku Klux Klan organizer William Stewart Simkins. The dorm is now called Creekside Residence Hall.

Vincent declined to say whether he thought the statue should be removed, saying he didn’t want to influence the task force. But he said he was opposed to vandalizing the statues in the meantime.

“There are other means to get your point across,” he said.

MATTHEW WATKINS reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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3 thoughts on “After vandalism, UT to weigh Confederate statues’ future

  1. Just move the statue to a museum or something. It is perfectly understandable that people are offended by it. Quite frankly, I don’t really think that there should be any confederate monuments anywhere in America, since the Confederate States of America was a rival nation that fought against America in war. It’s baffling that we are commemorating leaders from a rival nation. I don’t see any Nazi statues in America commemorating the Germans or the Italians or the Japanese for World War 2, so there should not be any statues commemorating leaders from the Confederate States of America.

  2. There was no other war where the “rival nation” started off as American citizens before the war and ended up as American citizens after the war as well. You simply can’t draw parallels between the Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression if you prefer) and any other war….because there hasn’t even been a situation like that.

  3. History cannot be erased by trying to remove it from visible sight and past wrongs are never corrected by wrongs done in the present. May I remind everyone that Dr. Martin Luther King was a man of peace and that he advocated non-aggressive resistance? I am very disappointed in today’s generation and this goes for people of all races and religions. Learn to get along with one another! Not knowing how to do that is the true source of ALL these problems! My generation made efforts to break down race barriers; whereas your generation is destroying all that we worked for 50 years ago and guess what? We walked right by those same statues on that same campus without feeling a need to spray paint them because we knew that would not solve anything, but simply make matters worse! Grow up already.

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