A dormitory at the University of Texas at Austin, which is named after a prominent man in the Ku Klux Klan, may have its name changed, say officials.
CNN reports that University President William Powers jr. will ask the university system's board of regents to rename Simkins Residence Hall. This follows a recommendation made by a 21-member advisory group, says a press release from the university.
University vice president Gregory Vincent tells CNN affiliate KXAN that naming a public building after a self-proclaimed racist compromised the university's image. He says:
We're certainly not erasing Professor Simkins from the annals of UT history. All we are saying is that honorific is a very special designation and it should not harm the university's reputation.
The university says that hall, which was built in 1950 to house male law students and graduate students, was named for William Stewart Simkins, a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Simkins taught at the university's law school from 1899 to 1929, when he died.
The suggested change comes as a result of research into Simkins by a former UT law professor, Tom Russell. Russell's research claims that UT officials named the dorm after a Klan member in the 1950's as a way to intimidate African-Americans after the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. Board of Education. CNN quotes Russell:
Professor Simkins helped to organize the Ku Klux Klan in Florida at the conclusion of the American Civil War, and he advocated his Klan past to Texas students. During the 1950s, the memory and history of Professor Simkins supported the university's resistance to integration. As the university faced pressure to admit African-American students, the university's faculty council voted to name a dormitory after the Klansman and law professor.
Views among students at the university seems to differ from student to student. UT senior Jillian Underwood told KXAN that the name change could create more controversy. She says:
There are Confederate names on buildings here, so are we going to draw the line on the KKK, or are we going to take it all the way and get rid of everything? That would significantly change the campus.
Senior Benjamin Bamgbade, however, said that the university should review more buildings for further changes. He says:
You don't want to make a group of people uncomfortable coming to this university.