AUSTIN (KXAN) - It's just a name, seven letters, familiar to many University ofTexas students: Simkins.
But it carries with it the wrenching pain of decades ofoppression - named after an organizer in one of the most hatefulchapters in American history: The Ku Klux Klan.
A former University of Texas law professor, however, is pushingUT officials to change the name of Simkins Hall Dormitory.
Simkins, built in 1954, is named after former UT law professorand Klan organizer
The Civil War veteran was an organizer of the Ku Klux Klanin Florida and even gave a speech on campus promoting his Klanpast, according to university officials and Professor Thomas Russell, who released a
Russell said the dorm's name needs to change.
"It's simply not appropriate for the University of Texasadministrators to continue to honor a Klansman by keeping his nameon a dormitory," said Russell.
"After the Civil War," Russell said, "he participated inviolence against freed blacks. And then while he was at theuniversity, he used to give a speech advocating his own Klanpast."
Russell said no one has actively pushed to change the name ofthe dorm in recent years, saying the name probably faded fromstudents' memory.
UT officials with the Divisionof Diversity and Community Engagement said Russell's researchis not new to them.
"Simkins’ affiliation with the Klan is deplorable andoffensive, that is true," said the division's Associate Director ofCommunications Leslie Blair. "And although he was not memorializedwith his name on a building until 1954, The University of Texas hassince moved on."
The renaming of the building would require involvement from theBoard of Regents, Blair said.
"To rename the building would set a huge precedent—onethat could end up costing a great deal of money and time," Blairsaid. "We feel that a better use of our time and money wouldbe to continue to recruit and to provide programs that support morestudents, faculty, and staff from populations underrepresented atthe University and to further a climate of inclusiveness andcultural diversity that looks to the future instead of dwelling onthe past."
Dr. Gregory Vincent, UT's Vice President of Diversity andCommunity Engagement, added the Simkins Hall Dormitory will be torndown at some point in the future to make way for a more modernbuilding.
"In some ways, this is going to be a moot issue in sometime," Vincent said.
Yet, when pressed for a time line of when Simkins Hall maycome down, Vincent could not provide one.
UT officials do point to various monuments, statues, andbuilding names that honor underrepresented groups on campus.
Most recently, the university commemorated the Almetris Duren Residence Hall in 2007. Durenwas the house mother for female African American students before UThad integrated housing.
As for Simkins, they say it is important to recognizeSimkins is a part of UT's history.
"Through a process, with students and faculty, theyrecognized this particular person," Vincent said. "So the questionis now, do we un-recognize those individuals? I think what we needto be careful about is making sure that we send the message that weneed to be honest about our history."
Some students who learned of Simkins' past recently said thedorm should have a new name.
"For them to still have it just shows that they still honor himand respect him as a person," said UT student Zainab Wurie. "Ithink it's very disrespectful that they still have this dorm."
One student living in Simkins Hall seemed mixed on the namechange.
"It's obviously very ugly to be involved in an organizationsuch as the KKK," said Simkins Hall Resident Spencer Walker. "Iwouldn't say that I'm comfortable making that kind of call."
Russell said the choice is clear.
"Professor Simkins was a Klansman, a white supremacist, aterrorist, and he really doesn't deserve to have the continuinghonor of his name upon a dormitory," he said.
Russell's research also points out Simkins Hall was commemoratedin 1954, the same year of Brown vs. Board of Educationdecision.
To read more about how Russell weaves the Brown vs. Boarddecision with Simkins' past, as well as exclusionary standardizedtesting practices to keep African Americans out of UT, read more of
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