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Relocate UT Confederate Statues Or Add Plaques, Panel Says

Matthew Watkins
Texas Tribune
Three statues at the University of Texas at Austin that commemorate Confederate leaders were vandalized in June.

A task force on Monday recommended the University of Texas at Austin either relocate statues of Confederate leaders or add explanatory plaques.

The 12-person advisory panel of students, alumni and administrators issued recommendations to UT-Austin President Gregory Fenves, who commissioned the report in June, on the same day three statutes were vandalized.

The report suggested five options, four of which involve moving one or more statues from the South Mall to a history center on campus. A fifth option suggested leaving the statues in place and adding plaques to explain historical context.

Fenves will review the report before making a final decision, according to the university. 

"Statues have layers of meaning: aesthetic, historical, aspirational, and educational. History is not innocent; it is the living foundation for the present," the report said. "The university’s approach to changing and replacing monuments on campus should be conservative but not uncritical."

The statues have been a growing source of controversy at the university, which has Confederate leaders commemorated on its South Mall. In March, the student assembly adopted a resolution asking UT to remove the most controversial statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The next month, that statue was vandalized when someone tagged it with the phrase “Davis Must Fall.”

Fenves announced the creation of the task force in June, after another bout of vandalism. A week after the deadly shooting in a black church in South Carolina, someone spray-painted “Black Lives Matter” on the statue of Davis and on the ones of generals Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston. An online petition calling for the removal of the Davis statue has garnered more than 3,500 signatures since it started in June.

The scrutiny follows a national conversation about the use of Confederate flags and symbols in Southern culture. In July, Texas Democrats asked Gov. Greg Abbott to evaluate the appropriateness of Confederate monuments at the state Capitol — a request that occurred the same day South Carolina lawmakers voted to remove the Confederate flag from its Capitol grounds. Communities across the state have also discussed renaming schools named after Confederate leaders.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

The Texas Tribune provided this story.