UT President Proposes Renaming Simkins Hall

Bill Powers speaks about budget cuts at The University of Texas on Tuesday, February 2nd.
Bill Powers speaks about budget cuts at The University of Texas on Tuesday, February 2nd.

University of Texas officials have decided it's time to rid the campus of a name that is a reminder of white hoods and racist atrocities.

UT officials said Friday they are proposing a name change for the residence hall named after the late Ku Klux Klan leader William Stewart Simkins. The decision comes after heated public debate this summer about the namesake of the all-male hall on the Austin campus.

Simkins was a UT law professor who helped found the Florida KKK and died in 1929. The university named the hall after him in 1954. UT President Bill Powers said he would propose at the July 15 UT System Board of Regents meeting renaming the hall Creekside Dormitory.

Former UT professor Thomas Russell helped initiate the debate in May when he distributed a paper he wrote about Simkins. The idea of renaming the hall generated sometimes-heated debate in the university community.

Some argued that Simkins' name had no place on the name of a public building. Others said that while Simkins' association with the KKK was troubling, UT shouldn't try to rewrite him out of its history. Still others said they had no issue at all with the name — that Simkins acted within the context of post-Civil War Texas and made positive contributions to the school.

It was Simkins' racist activism that pushed Powers toward his recommendation. Simkins wrote and spoke "freely" to students about his violence toward African-Americans after the Civil War, Gregory Vincent, vice president for diversity and engagement, said in a statement on Friday.

Simkins is one case "when the name compromises public trust and the university's reputation," Vincent said.

"An institution like ours is shaped by its history," Powers said, "but it need not be encumbered by it."

 

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